Music Reviews



Staples Center, Los Angeles
Wednesday, Nov. 7

"Miley makes me smiley." A handmade sign held high by a fan during Wednesday's appearance by Hannah Montana, aka Miley Cyrus, at Staples Center in downtown Los Angeles summed up all the screams and squeals during the night for the teen TV and pop star.

The sold-out audience of young teen, tween and toddler girls, along with some boys, was all smiles, dancing and singing along. Parents smiled too, watching their happy kids. And even some ushers were smiling. When's the last time you saw that?

Cyrus' hit Disney Channel show "Hannah Montana," which co-stars her father, one-time country pinup Billy Ray Cyrus, is about a teen pop star coming to terms with her onstage and offstage personas, and this show did the same.

For the first half of the 80-minute concert, she was Hannah, wearing her blond wig and various outfits that included spangled tops over leggings. Just 14, she's already a playful pro, singing mostly uptempo tunes including "Life's What You Make It," the spunky "Old Blue Jeans" and the rah-rah "Pumpin' Up the Party."

Anchored by chunky guitar or keyboard waves, the candy-coated pop-rock was hook-filled and probably reminded some moms and dads of the early '80s new wave sound and groups like the Go-Go's.

The lighting, video screen images and costumes for the dancers matched the music -- colorful with lots of green, red and pink, lots of pink -- while the choreography was unpretentious and loose, never getting in the way of the songs.

Midway, for "We Got the Party," Cyrus was joined by her opening act, Disney's Jonas Brothers, who drew their own starry-eyed high-pitched screams. The trio played a couple of its generic Radio Disney hits while she transformed backstage into her "real" self, Miley.

Wearing a fashion-mall-punky outfit, her wavy brunette hair a touch wild, she beamed for bubblegum garage-rock of "Start All Over" and was silly sneer for "See You Again." She mugged, stuck out her tongue and grinned throughout more costume changes and cutesy production numbers such as the salsa-dipped "Let's Dance" and school spirit of "East Northumberland High."

Sure, cynics might see the whole thing as calculated Disney marketing, but the music was much more lively than the dance dolly and boy band mania of the late '90s. Plus, it's wholesome, positive without pandering and free of expletives and sexual innuendo.

So maybe the fluffy songs won't be more than nostalgic memories in 10-15 years, except, perhaps, the anthem kiss-off to mean boys "G.N.O. (Girls Night Out)." She finished the main set with her TV show's theme song "The Best of Both Worlds," a duet with her blond Hannah persona up on the video screens.

Although some parents already were heading out with the kids during the encore, Cyrus followed through, sitting on a stool at the end of the ramp on the arena floor, strumming guitar, gently backed by her band for the lower-key, sentimental "I Miss You," dedicated to her late grandfather.

Going from Hannah to Miley in the show is a smart move, setting up that future career as a recording artist once the TV program is gone. And this teen talent definitely has that future ahead of her. With lots more smileys to come.