Regardless of their musical merits, which are often irrelevant, every
generation has its "big as the Beatles" teen idols.
We could reach back past Annette Funicello and Frankie Avalon, before
Rudy Vallee and Bing Crosby, to find some medieval minstrel whose lute
playing made all the young girls swoon, or some Cro-Magnon whose grunting
put her fellow cave dwellers to shame. As an objective and veteran observer
of these phenomena, I can say this about Miley Cyrus: She's at least as good
as Hilary Duff, and much better than anyone in the cast of "High School
Musical," except perhaps for that heavy-set girl who wasn't invited to take
part in the tour.
After all of the controversy surrounding ticket sales, weeks of
distracting anticipation in grades four through six and an unrelenting flood
of Radio Disney/Disney Channel hype, the 15-year-old middle daughter of
Billy Ray "Achy Breaky" Cyrus finally performed at a sold-out Allstate Arena
on Saturday -- and so did her blond rock-star alter ego from the immensely
popular TV show, "Hannah Montana."
In fact, the 70-minute set by the teen queen of the moment was neatly
divided in two. Fronting a five-piece band with two backing vocalists and
eight dancers and sporting that silly blond wig and a silver sparkle blouse
-- the first of more than half a dozen costume changes -- Hannah Montana
kicked things off with the moderately catchy, mildly rambunctious and
gleefully self-esteem-building hits "Rock Star" and "Life's What You Make
"Nobody's Perfect," "Pumpin' Up the Party" and a few more songs later,
the opening act, the discreetly libidinous Jonas Brothers, joined the
headliner for a romp through her song "We Got the Party," followed by two of
their own tunes (including the hit "Year 3000"), during which Hannah ducked
backstage to transform herself into Miley Cyrus once more.
For the second half of the evening -- or rather the late afternoon -- the
singer sported her own mousy-brown hair, though there wasn't any other
noticeable distinction from her earlier persona as she bounced through more
standout hits and pseudo-girl-power anthems such as "G.N.O. (Girls Night
Out)" and "Best Of Both Worlds."
Whom did the crowd prefer: the unabashed rock star or the awkward,
"average" schoolgirl? The key to Hannah/Miley's multi-platinum,
billion-dollar appeal is that girls listen to her two albums, watch her TV
show and believe there's no distinction -- and that if that's possible for
her, it might be within their grasp, too.
Not that the fans could articulate this. Everything the starlet did was
simply greeted with the same high-pitched wall of eardrum-piercing screeches
and squeals. And their heroine deserved them.
Like her predecessor Hilary, Hannah has a voice that's glee-club passable
at best. But she belted out her hits with gusto and no discernable help from
digital auto-tuning. She worked up a visible sweat with all that dancing and
cheerleading; she didn't push her merchandise (which Disney needs no help in
hawking), and she exuded an enthusiasm so infectious that you had to admire
Or, to quote the current class of idol worshippers, "YEEEAAAHHH!!!"