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Hannah Montana Houston Concert Review

Hannah Montana, Miley Cyrus a double delight in Houston

Karen Warren: Chronicle

Hannah Montana sparkles Sunday inside a sold-out Toyota Center.

Click here to see more photos from the concert.

Hannah Montana didn't take the stage until late Sunday afternoon inside a sold-out Toyota Center. Brown-haired Miley Cyrus appeared even later.

But the MileyWorld circus was at full tilt much earlier outside the venue. By 10:30 a.m., parents, wide-eyed kids and a gaggle of heavily madeup tween cheerleaders (likely from the Athletic Cheer & Dance Championships at the nearby George R. Brown Convention Center) gawked at the outdoor merchandise booth. Smart move, Disney.

 

Lines were already long, and a few weary dads came armed with foldout chairs. Others snapped photos in front of the parked MileyWorld bus, which was emblazoned with a huge photo of Cyrus. Crew members appeared every couple of minutes to erase tiny fingerprints with feather dusters. Guess Miley runs a tight ship.

 

A huge Miley globe appeared amid the flags in front of the Toyota Center later in the afternoon. Girls in blonde Hannah wigs peppered the crowd, and many held homemade Jonas Brothers posters.

 

The line for raffle prizes -- including VIP passes to meet Miley after the show -- was longer than the one at the merch booth. But it was overeager parents who were the most disturbing, er, amusing. They surveyed the scene like bodyguards, and rushed amid lines like harried Wall Street players, nearly trampling any child who wasn't their own. Take a chill pill, mom.

 

Inside the safety of the arena, videos from Aly & AJ and High School Musical entertained the crowd. Things hit an ear-piercing climax even before the blonde pop star appeared.

 

"Now I know why you wear those earplugs," said one of my tween companions, who had traveled from St. Louis for the concert.

 

"We should've brought some Tylenol," my niece chimed in. This was her third Hannah show, so she approached things like an old pro.

The blonde sitcom half of Disney's juggernaut was first onstage in a sparking silver and black minidress. She worked the crowd with all the pep of a junior-varsity cheerleader during tunes Rock Star and Life's What You Make It, a powderpuff anthem with a My Sharona-esque guitar riff.

 

"You guys think it could be a little bit louder?" she teased. It was all the crowd needed to hit maximum squeal.

This was safe, sweet stuff. And many of the songs could have -- duh -- doubled as sitcom theme songs. But that's not necessarily a slam.

Old Blue Jeans was a coy, flirty romp worthy of the Spice Girls. Nobody's Perfect was a rocket-fueled blast of energy in pink sequins, and Pumpin' Up The Party came with the same Skittle-colored, retro flair that's been used on tours by older divas Madonna and Christina Aguilera.

Karen Warren: Chronicle

Hannah and her stage sisters strike a retro, rainbow pose.

Hannah worked hard between songs to keep the energy up, and her blonde wig was soon whipped into a sweaty frenzy as she kept up with an army of dancers. She was aided during We Got the Party by the Jonas Brothers, who provided stylish, emo-pop fervor.

 

The sibling trio -- Nick, Joe and Kevin -- opened the show and performed between the Hannah/Miley transition. The mod suits and shiny sneakers looked straight out of a glossy magazine layout.

 

Vocally, the JBros are somewhere between boys and men, proven by the occasionally creaky note. They strummed guitars with teen idol fury -- but were often backed by a pair of older players.

 

The brothers worked the stage with confidence that sometimes threatened to spill into cockiness. They raced onto platforms, flipped and swirled between tween anthems Hold On, Year 3000 and earnest power ballad Look Me in the Eye.

 

And there was some scrappy charm in SOS, a punchy pop tune that wouldn't sound out of place on a Fall Out Boy record.

Miley Cyrus emerged from the end of the runway like a Hot Topic rock goddess. She sparkled in black leather and chains, her (real) brown hair blowing beautifully in the (fake) wind.

 

Fireworks marked opener Start All Over, which did its job of establishing Cyrus as a separate presence from her blonde alter ego. She addressed the crowd often, even if most of her banter was relegated to repeating the phrase "you guys" as often as possible.

But, you guys, it was still totally fun.

 

The rhythm of Corey Hart's Sunglasses At Night snaked its way through See You Again, and the tango-tinged Let's Dance was an unwitting tribute to '80s-era Madonna -- all frilly skirts and neon. The song even seemed to crib some of its groove from La Isla Bonita. (Not that most of the crowd noticed.)

East Northumberland High was like an excised High School Musical scene, complete with caffeinated jocks and cheerleaders. But what's nice about Cyrus is that she's able to emerge as a real person from behind all the Disney dazzle. And she's a much better vocalist than her teen predecessor, Hilary Duff.\

 

The frothy G.N.O. (Girl's Night Out) was like a blend of Avril Lavigne without the angst (and raccoon eyes) and the Pussycat Dolls without the stripper poles. The ubiquitous Best of Both Worlds found Cyrus singing alongside Hannah via the maze of onstage video screens.

Cyrus straddled a stool and strummed a guitar during I Miss You, one of her strongest original tunes. She wrote it as a tribute for her deceased grandfather, and a gentle smile never left her face.

 

More than any other time during the glitter-lined set, Cyrus seemed fragile and warmly human.