For Crying Out Loud!

By J. Freedom du Lac
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, January 8, 2008

That Miley Cyrus/Hannah Montana sure is a scream. A glutton, too.

Seventy minutes into her "Best of Both Worlds" concert last night at Verizon Center, the Disney Channel superstar with the televised double identity (dorky schoolgirl by day, beloved pop sensation by night) considered the already extreme decibel level inside the screech-filled arena -- and then asked her girls to crank it up way past 111 dB, which is more or less the volume of a power saw at close range.

"You guys are loud, but you're not loud enough for a Miley Cyrus concert," she declared. The squealing -- so sharp, so sustained, so ear shattering -- became louder. Cyrus grinned, then said something I couldn't really hear.

Because at that point, it was all shriek to me.

If you weren't there for the most significant cultural gathering for tweenage girls since, say, 'N Sync touched down at RFK Stadium in 2001, then you can't possibly understand what you missed. If you must know, though, put about 20,000 teakettles on the stove and let them whistle until you can't take it anymore. And then leave them on for another 30 minutes while songs from the two "Hannah Montana" soundtracks play. Also, put on a spangly outfit, turn out the lights and invite a bunch of friends over to wave glow sticks and light some fireworks.

"Hannah Montana" has turned Cyrus, 15, into a singular pop sensation. Miley and Hannah dolls and video games and apparel and jewelry are bestsellers. According to Nielsen SoundScan, Miley/Hannah sold more albums stateside in 2007 than any other act in popular music save for Josh Groban.

"I'm telling you that we are meant to be," Cyrus (as TV alter-ego Miley Stewart) sang in "Rock Star," the yearning power-pop song that opened last night's spectacle. "Now wouldn't it be nice if you could see/That I really am a rock star."

And how.

If concert-ticket demand is the most important measure of stardom in this era of evaporating music sales, then Cyrus has the field crushed: No ticket this past year was more difficult to acquire -- nor more costly on the resale market -- than one to a "Best of Both Worlds" show. The concerts sold out in minutes, leading to plenty of tears as well as a public outcry that prompted lawsuits and investigations in several states. (At issue: whether ticket resellers -- who have been offering some Hannah tickets for more than 10 times their face value -- have an unfair advantage over the average consumer.) The controversy trickled into Washington's streets yesterday, when a demonstration was staged across from Verizon Center. It wasn't exactly a Million Kid March, though: There were roughly 10 children (with parents) protesting the current state of the ticket market with homemade signs saying "Illegalize Scalping," "Young Fans Are Being Bullied" and such.

"This isn't about Miley Cyrus, it's about her young fans," said the protest's organizer, Julie Pinero, a 15-year-old sophomore at the National Cathedral School. Loves Hannah, couldn't get tickets in October -- now fuming. "It's really unfair because little kids want to go in and see their pop idol, and they can't."

Here's what those kids missed: a nearly 90-minute blast of pop in which the charismatic Cyrus -- who complained that she wasn't feeling well -- commanded the stage with confidence, performing with a particular swagger.

Whether she performed with her own voice is another question entirely: Cyrus, whose husky voice has more character than the usual tween-pop singer's, appeared to be lip-syncing throughout the show, during which she was backed by a five-piece band, two female vocalists, eight dancers and a busy pyrotechnician.

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