Miley Cyrus: Bangerz review – loud, lewd, but still laudable

O2 Arena, London
Other stadium-sized pop acts signpost their maturity with clanging visual references to Warhol: Cyrus dances with a pantomime horse

Miley Cyrus' Bangerz tour arrives in London trailing in its wake precisely the kind of spluttering outrage that's marked pretty much every turn in the 21-year-old singer's career over the last year or so.

Horrified accounts from the US leg of the tour described the former Disney poppet taking the stage in a costume apparently made entirely of marijuana leaves and pretending to fellate a man wearing a Bill Clinton mask. The latter reference to a decades-old sex scandal rather raising the question of which piping-hot political controversy the singer might address next: Watergate? The 1971 Industrial Relations Act? The repeal of The Corn Law?

In a sense, the outrage Cyrus has caused feels a little confusing. She's not really doing anything that hasn't been done before: virtually every former squeaky clean teen star, regardless of their sex, seems to find it necessary to clangingly broadcast that they're now an adult and in possession of a set of fully-functioning genitals sooner or later.

That said, as tonight's show amply proves, few of them have been quite as relentless about it as Cyrus. She takes the stage sliding down a huge tongue, then variously spanks her backing dancer's buttocks, pretends to masturbate, addresses the audience as "you bunch of fucking sluts", appears in a black and white film naked, with a bunch of roses sticking out of her bum and yanks at the crotch of her bodysuit as if trying to give herself a wedgie. Watching it feels a bit like being repeatedly bludgeoned over the head, and just as erotic.

But that's not to say Cyrus's live show isn't entertaining. Quite the opposite: it's so gleefully, dementedly, cartoonishly vulgar that it's almost impossible not to be entertained.

Other stadium-sized pop artists tend to try to signpost their maturity with arty films or clanging visual references to Warhol: Cyrus dances onstage with a pantomime horse. The recent death of her beloved dog Floyd is commemorated by a 30-foot statue of a dog being lowered onto the stage: it shoots lasers out of its eyes. The ballads are seldom the highpoint of a huge pop show, but in Cyrus's case, a degree of interest is added by the fact that she sings one of them while being pursued around the stage, for reasons that aren't entirely clear, by a giant fluorescent orange fluffy bird.

A cynical observer might suggest that all this detracts attention from the music, and a cynical observer might have a point. At her best – Wrecking Ball, Can't Be Tamed – Cyrus's brand of production line pop is pretty fizzy, but live it invariably seems secondary to the visual chaos.

That said, an acoustic section highlights the more straightforward Nashville entertainer she might have chosen to become. "Do y'all like Bob Dylan?" she asks. The ensuing silence suggests she may have sorely overestimated the average Miley Cyrus fan's familiarity with Highway 61 Revisited and The Basement Tapes, but her version of You're Gonna Make Me Lonesome When You Go shows off her voice – more earthy and interesting than your average manufactured pop starlet – to considerable effect.

Then she sings Dolly Parton's Jolene, altering the words so they're laden with expletives, having the time of her life. The audience roar their approval and you can see why: better this – shambolic, tasteless, childish and occasionally baffling as it is – than a perfectly choreographed, antiseptic pop show.


Alexis Petridis

The GuardianTramp

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