Miley Cyrus’ Summerfest show Friday was off to a spectacular start.
She set the tone with the unapologetic “be you” anthem “We Can’t Stop,” slipping into a piercing snippet of Pixies’ “Where Is My Mind?” (a swell consolation for any fans there bummed about their Summerfest cancellation).
Then a few songs after that, the curled tongue was out and she was back in her “Bangerz” mode — and rapper Wiz Khalifa, her opener Friday, was by her side — with the pair hugging and strutting through their towering collaboration “23.”
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But soon after, Cyrus confessed something incredibly personal to the nearly 20,000 people packed into Summerfest.
Between one long pause between songs, she said she had told her drummer and musical director Stacy Jones, who has played with her since she was 12, that she thought she was having a panic attack.
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“The last year kind of removed this divide, this curtain, and we’re allowing people to see us in our most vulnerable, our most isolated, our most hurt, our most scared states,” Cyrus said during her five-minute speech. “And I think that’s something really empowering … ”
And from there, a show that was already dazzling became even more stunning, the newly liberated star at the center visually empowered by the support of her fans.
“I think by being honest, that makes me less afraid,” she continued. “I’m getting used to being back on stage, but there’s nowhere else that I’d rather be.”
For a walloping “Wrecking Ball,” Cyrus slipped in “Nothing Compares 2 U,” a cover that, like all the others, came incredibly close to matching the original power of the Sinead O’Connor studio rendition. Then for “Party in the U.S.A.,” a beaming Cyrus collected mementos from fans, including a tank top that read “Diet (Expletive)” she said she’d wear at her next show, and an old Hannah Montana tee she slipped on at the end.
Feeling reassured by the roar of the crowd after such an emotionally challenging beginning, Cyrus ended the night proclaiming that this was “the greatest concert in the world.”
It certainly was the greatest concert of Summerfest 2021.