Miley Cyrus @ Birmingham NIA – 16th May 2014

Miley Cyrus @ Birmingham NIA – 16th May 2014Miley Cyrus @ Birmingham NIA – 16th May 2014Miley Cyrus @ Birmingham NIA – 16th May 2014Miley Cyrus @ Birmingham NIA – 16th May 2014Miley Cyrus @ Birmingham NIA – 16th May 2014Miley Cyrus @ Birmingham NIA – 16th May 2014Miley Cyrus @ Birmingham NIA – 16th May 2014Miley Cyrus @ Birmingham NIA – 16th May 2014Miley Cyrus @ Birmingham NIA – 16th May 2014Miley Cyrus @ Birmingham NIA – 16th May 2014Miley Cyrus @ Birmingham NIA – 16th May 2014

Steve Gerrard Photography

It’s official, Birmingham, we’re all sluts.

“Birmingham is officially the sluttiest place in the UK!” announces Miley Cyrus to a wild and expectant crowd, about half way in to her two hour performance at the Birmingham NIA. It is a telling sign that by this point, such a statement did not seem a) out of place, or b) unreasonable. The crowd were pretty up for it by all standards.

Steve Gerrard Photography

On my arrival, the lone girl next to me told me that she’d just met Miley in the Meet & Greet, and she was in fact, “lovely”. As Miley came to stage, (through her own mouth via a tongue slide, obviously), I couldn’t disagree. She did look quite lovely parading up and down and waving to her adoring crowd. It was only the high-legged diamante covered thonged leotard that might suggest other, more lewd qualities.

Thus begins my journey into what can only be described as a truly entertaining evening. It’s an aggressive start, with ‘SMS (Bangerz)’ whipping the crowd into a frenzy. Her country-pop track “4×4” (produced by Pharell – fact) gives us a suggestion of where her heart might really lie; the low tones of her country voice resonating around the arena and making my seat shake. But just as the gingham, cowboy hat and boots spectacle appears, it disappears again, to be replaced by crotch grabbing, tapping (and at some points, rubbing), to the backdrop of the “Parental Advisory” sign, which oddly takes me back to my “Eminem Show” days of the early noughties.

Steve Gerrard Photography

Then it’s on to ‘Love Party Money’… Was it rap? Was it country? Pop? Is rap-country-pop a thing? One might call it Ra-count-pop. (This inner dialogue takes place whilst I awkwardly try to avoid the big screen zooming in on her minimally covered nether regions as she gyrates on a gold car).

I’m getting an education regardless, and the song comes to an abrupt end as she stuffs fake dollars into her mouth and spits them into the crowd. However, after picking up some bubblegum lube, (thoughtfully thrown onto stage by a keen fan) and popping it into her sparkly backpack, she calls us all “sluts” and struts off stage for leotard change number 3.

Finally, a moment to breathe. ‘My Darlin’’ begins with a few nice fills in the comfortable part of her range. Overall, the slow numbers are a bit of a disappointment. I found myself waiting for a ‘boob grab’, or for her to take some clothes off. They were simply not vocally striking enough to hold my attention after all the visual stimulation of yester-song.

Steve Gerrard Photography

I am momentarily cheered however, when the next big ballad, ‘FU’, features her interacting with a massive red, fluffy muppet. Of course it does.

Another costume change is filled with a Matt Bellamy-esque keys solo from the band, who at this point, I suddenly notice. You can’t blame me; the backing singers are in head to toe black, with only a hint of exposed midriff. It’s then shortly after this that Miley spits water into the crowd, announces we are officially sluttier than Leeds and gropes herself along to the slow grinding rhythms of ‘Do My Thang’. She’s ghetto, she’s aggressive, it’s cringey, but it’s oddly authentic.

Still, I’m dazed and confused. I remain so as she writhes around on a bed offering sweets to her dancers for ‘#GETITRIGHT’. She’s definitely not Hannah Montana anymore. It’s now highly inappropriate to even suggest it. The Disney days are over… Long gone… Finito.

She confirms this with a quick and nasty rendition of the rock-y ‘Can’t Be Tamed’, the single from her first foray into post-Disney stardom. Of course, this includes rubbing herself on the paw of the 30ft dog that has suddenly appeared on stage.

Steve Gerrard Photography

So we’ve had rap, pop, some light pop-rock, a bit of a disco, peppered with country fills and the odd click of a cowboy boot. What’s missing? Thrash metal. Oh no, wait, here it is. Accompanied by a cartoon of Miley on a speedboat, dressed in a black mankini, having her face melted off by lasers that are shot from the sun, which is in fact the face of an evil baby. I’m almost relived when Miley comes back to stage.

The ‘kiss-cam’ during her next slow song, ‘Adore You’, was a pleasant distraction from the pitchy and indecipherable vocals – I’m not sure her heart was entirely in the performance of the tune. Maybe she’d been thrown by the cartoon evil baby laser face, too.

Another leotard change gives the opportunity to watch a video of Miley arching her back and being generally suggestive in a pair of fishnets, a gaffa tape bandeau and black paint bleeding from her eyes. All to the arty backing of Alt J’s, ‘Fitzpleasure’. I’m starting to get the feeling that she might well have inhaled her eclectic mp4 collection, and vomited them into the action points of the production planning meeting. Ta-dah! Here is the result.

She next appears at the back of the room (costume changed, obviously), taking selfies with the crowd and sings us some Bob Dylan, a cover of Lana Del Ray’s ‘Summertime Sadness’ and her god-mothers classic, ‘Jolene’. She puts her own spin on it of course – a cover must have its own identity! – announcing in that deep southern drawl of hers that Jolene is in fact, “a “f****n slut”, and simply, “nothin’ but a ho”.

I find myself rationalising these coarse additions to her songs, because she’s in tune and the crowd love her. Her tone is nice in this set (if not a little nasal), and the odd vocal riff is pleasing to the ear.

Steve Gerrard Photography

It’s not long before she mounts an inflatable hotdog suspended from the ceiling and leaves the stage, waving goodbye with that big Disney grin. I’m confused again. Was that Hannah Montana with a Macaulay Culkin haircut circa 1994… in a sparkly leotard on a giant wiener? Yes I think it was, actually.

The lights continue to roam, and she re-appears for one of two encores. A quick belt of ‘We Can’t Stop’, accompanied by the obligatory twerk and occasional tongue poke, and then she’s into ‘Wrecking Ball’. A difficult song vocally, and she has nowhere to hide with only a spotlight and a lap of the stage for production. It’s okay though, and she leaves for her final costume change. Phew.

So the show ends, as it begins. Screams, stamps of feet and crazed fans chanting her name; they certainly haven’t been put off. For the final number, ‘Party in the USA’, there’s streamers, ticker tape, fireworks, strobe lighting, lasers, and our Miley in a blonde wig pretending to give a dancer dressed as President Lincoln a quick b-j. My jaw drops to the floor for the umpteenth time…

So she doesn’t have Christina Aguilera’s four octave range, the riff skills of Beyonce or the commercial dance moves of Britney. She’s horrifying parents worldwide, causing a stir with her explicit gyrating and provocative style… But she’s bold, her confidence is infectious and it was above all, one hell of a show. It’s been 12 hours since I got home, and I still feel a little violated, battered and mentally bruised.

Would I go and see her again? Most definitely.
With my 14 year old step-daughters? Most definitely not.

Steve Gerrard Photography

Review – Zoe Albutt
Photos – Steve Gerrard

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