The Bangerz Tour
This is not a Beyonce show. There’s nothing militarily precise about it. Everything about a Beyonce concert is perfect, engineered, controlled. Miley’s concert is the exact opposite. It’s intended to be messy, loose, and free. Which it was. All those things. And she encouraged all those things in her audience, imploring them to make out, f-ck off, and twerk away throughout the night. There were a lot of people trying to get pregnant. There were a lot of people not wearing pants. So, obviously, I had a great time.
By now you’ve probably seen the photos – the hot dog, the giant inflatable wolf, the costumes (both on her and her dancers, like Bill Clinton), the car, the visual displays behind the screen featuring Miley in all forms of provocation and several different crying cats too…
And all of it done with an air of low budget, by design. I kept telling a friend of mine (she’s a television executive) who was there with me that the production value was deliberately super cheap but we both agreed that it was deliberate. It’s just enough to provide some sort of embellishment but not so much that it’s not accessible to the generation that lives on social media. So, like, Instagram in concert form. You throw a filter on it and it’s good enough but far from great. And, always, curated so that what you see is exactly what she wants you to see.
This is the key. Miley is connecting with her age group. I was at the Taylor Swift show last summer and I promise you, the demographic there was much younger than the performer. Miley’s audience is easily much more adult. And this is important because, as I keep saying about the Avril Lavignes and the Justin Biebers of the world, part of the challenge in their careers is that that their audiences aren’t growing with them. Avril has to keep mining 14 year olds. Miley’s managed to bring them along with her. You know who else did that? Britney Spears. That’s the intangible. And that’s why any discussion that refuses to acknowledge that she’s not just a stunt queen is useless. Criticise her crassness. Object to the imagery. But don’t write it off like it’s not working. It’s working. And since it’s working, it automatically becomes a bigger conversation about why it’s working, and how collectively we’ve participated in that.
But all of it would be nothing if she didn’t have It. And Miley has It. She doesn’t hide behind complicated choreography. I don’t even think you could call anything she does on her stage choreographed. She owns it all by herself. There are no lengthy dance sequences, she doesn’t rely on back-up to distract from any limitations. Unlike the Britney Spears we’ve seen the last few years, and arguably earlier in her career, Miley’s presentation is pretty stripped in comparison. There are long stretches where she literally just walks around singing. Yes, singing, not lipsynching. Sometimes the notes sounded sh-tty. Wrecking Ball, towards the very end of the show, wasn’t all that sharp. But it wasn’t a computer. And she’d already delivered a pretty solid vocal performance during Hey Ya and Jolene up to that point so on that level, I’d say we’re already ahead of Katy Perry.
The biggest problem for me though is that she doesn’t have enough of a catalogue. Aside from 4 or 5 major hits, the rest of the songs – in concert form – aren’t good enough. It’s one thing to listen to them in your car, at home, while you’re running, but it’s another to have them broadcast in an arena. They don’t carry. To me, that’s what the challenge will be going forward. She’s succeeded in finding a fanbase that’s willing to stay with her, to speak a generation that will ride and die with her. But now she needs to find more material.