Anyone who becomes the best or the most popular in something eventually figures out that once you get to the top you usually have to work even harder to stay there. That's especially true when you're primary audience is preteens and young adolescents, a demographic whose tastes can change as quickly as it grows up.
She is Miley Cyrus, who pretty much sold out the Sprint Center on Saturday night, two weeks after she postponed her original date. There was a light smattering of empty seats around the arena but the place looked about 98 percent full, from top to bottom. The only slice of emptiness was in the obstructed-view sections directly behind the stage.
So nearly 16,000 fans showed up and the demographic breakdown was somewhere along these lines: half were girls 10 and younger; half of the rest were girls in the 11 to 16 range; and the rest were older adolescents and a lot of parents, most of them mothers (many of whom looked as eager to see the show as anyone in the building).
They saw a spectacle, a show packed with premiums: a setlist that included many of her hits; an elaborate multi-screen video presentation; a small army of backup dancers; some aerial theatrics that included Cyrus sitting atop motorcycle a few stories above the crowd; a brief tribute to Michael Jackson; a Joan Jett cover; and as many wardrobe changes as you get in a Cher concert.
Cyrus, who will turn 17 in November, has emerged from two worlds. Her father, Billy Ray Cyrus, was a brief country sensation in the mid-1990s; and she starred -- with him -- in the Disney Channel sitcom "Hannah Montana." At her show here in 2007, she played both roles: Miley Cyrus and her alter-ego, Hannah Montana.
Sunday, she stuck to one super-ego: herself. The show was produced and choreographed for the generation that needs quick dynamic shifts in visuals and an iPod shufflle to their music. The stage was a feast of dancing, singing, lighting, video images and other sights for the eyes, including a virtual appearance by will.i.am of the Black Eyed Peas on an exaggerated mp3 player. It didn't quite match the extravagance of the Jonas Brothers' show this summer, but it came close.
She and her live band performed several of her hits, like: "See You Again," "7 Things," "HoeDown Throwdown" and "The Climb," from the movie "Hannah Montana." Like the Jonas Brothers', her music is pop that is crafted, hardened, smoothed and shined to a glossy, radio-ready finish. It's all catchy and immediately appealing and some of the newer material borders on the kind of hard-pop/near-rock that Kelly Clarkson produces.
She also gave her fans a peek at one of her next films by broadcasting a short commercial (the trailer) for "The Song," which comes out in 2010. Nothing like taking advantage of a captive audience.
The other element to her show was Cyrus' wardrobe, some of which was borderline salacious -- low tops, super-short skirts and skin-tight shorts -- all of which were exaggerated several times by some very revealing, low-angle camera shots. Her half-brother, Trace Cyrus, 20, also got into the act. He is the lead singer in Metro Station, the opening band, and despite the age of the crowd before him, was comfortable baring his chest or shedding his shirt and grinding like Vince Neil in a Motley Crue video. He came out during the main event and busted some more Chippendale moves when he joined his sister on "Hovering." It was, I suppose, as harmless as it was unnecessary. Maybe all that was for the moms.
It's safe to say that most of the audience in the place has been exposed to things more risque than what they saw Saturday night -- which was something less than PG-13. But it's starting to look like Miley and her dad, Billy Ray, came to the fork in the road and instead of taking a right at Hilary Duff, they've decided to go the way of Britney Spears. For their sake, let's hope they've seen the trailer to that movie.
| Timothy Finn, The Star
Setlist:Breakout; Start All Over; 7 Things; Kickin' and Screamin'; Bottom of the Ocean; Fly on the Wall; 'Thriller' tribute; Let's Get Crazy; HoeDown Throwdown (with virtual will.i.am); These Four Walls; commercial for "The Last Song"; When I Look at You; Obsessed; Spotlight; Girls Night Out; I Love Rock 'n' Roll; Party In The USA; Hovering; Simple Song. Encore: See You Again; The Climb.