Shedding her Hannah Montana persona like a pair of outgrown jeans, Miley Cyrus showed evidence at Staples Center on Tuesday night that her 43-city Wonder World tour looks to be the first step in a concerted campaign to make the transition from ‘tween sensation to young adult star.
There was no mention of the pop star alter ego that made Cyrus famous (and with whom she shared billing on her last tour). Nevertheless, the hordes of squealing, spangled, decked-out girls in attendance were hardly disappointed. With a new album (“The Time of Our Lives”) and ancillary projects (a clothing line, a film) to promote, Cyrus knows how to deliver the goods without losing her core audience. Whether she can do that indefinitely is another question.
As if to announce her image reboot, the show’s first two songs, “Breakout” and “Start All Over,” though not new material, touch on the theme of self-reinvention — a theme made more evident when Cyrus opened the show trapped inside what looked like a block of ice, with the implication that Cyrus was bursting free from her previous incarnation.
A seasoned performer who turns 17 in November, Cyrus commanded the stage for nearly all of the 80-minute set, with brief but well-choreographed absences to change outfits (mostly some version of hot pants or tutus with boots; in other words, tight but not overly skimpy.) The choreography also skirts sexual innuendo, worth noting after the recent “Polegate” controversy at the Teen Choice Awards — though at times it comes close.
After the aggressive athleticism of the first four songs (which also included her earlier hit “7 Things” and the new album’s “Kicking and Screaming”), she switched to a more theatrical phase. In “Bottom of the Ocean,” Cyrus arose, Aphrodite-like, out of the stage clad in a flowing gown, with water images bubbling up on the screens behind her. “Fly on the Wall,” the best staged number of the evening, featured two acrobatic dancers scaling the screens. The number ended with a tantalizing 35-second homage to “Thriller.”
For all of the theatrics, the music held up adequately, and amounted to more than mere kid stuff (maybe young adult stuff is more like it). Cyrus’ vocal range is decidedly limited, but her success as a recording artist has always had more to do with charisma, drive and spunk rather than artistry.
There were a few rough spots, including the dreary lovelorn ballad “Obsessed,” a song that seems tailor-made for the auds currently infatuated with brooding Robert Pattinson types.
In an astute feat of cross-promotion, Cyrus introduced a clip from her upcoming film “The Last Song,” accompanied by its almost inevitable hit single “When I Look at You.” Seven and eight-year-olds throughout were heard clamoring to see the film: Mission accomplished.
Cyrus will play Newark, N.J: Nov. 7-8 and Long Island, N.Y., Nov. 18-19).