EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. - Miley Cyrus wasn't feeling like herself as she faced a packed Izod Center.
She was still processing the death of her beloved dog, Floyd, whose 40-foot likeness plays a part in Cyrus' normally wild "Bangerz" tour, and she apologized to fans for not being at her absolute best, adding that she hoped they would see her at a different time.
During her acoustic set, tears rolled down her face as she sang Lana Del Rey's "Summertime Sadness" and Dolly Parton's "Jolene." And during the finale, "Party in the USA," while the crazy pageant of dancers in costumes including Presidents Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton on stilts, the Liberty Bell, the Statue of Liberty and Mount Rushmore paraded by, Cyrus let out a noticeable sigh of relief.
"Every day, it's a little bit easier," she said earlier in the show. "Life is going to go on."
Floyd's death was one of the few parts of the "Bangerz" tour that Cyrus and her team didn't meticulously plan. She hit another hitch this past week when she had "an extreme allergic reaction" to the antibiotic cephalexin and had to be hospitalized. The reaction was serious enough that Cyrus had to postpone the rest of her North American tour, including her scheduled stop at Nassau Coliseum on Thursday. She will make up those shows starting Aug. 1 in Uniondale.
The transparent, Twitter-filled way she handled the setback was yet another sign of the 21-year-old's current strategy for her career and her life. She's being real.
"Like with everything I do, I don't want there to be anything about it that's unoriginal or seems fake in any way," Cyrus said in a teleconference before the tour began. "And my goal was really to keep it really fun. For me, I think the best thing for an artist is to see people sing along to your songs and also to have people participating in your show. Sometimes, that's hard. There are just people in the front row with their cellphones in front of their face and not really getting involved. And this show is a really hard show to not want to get up and be involved, like set your phone down and actually dance and be a part of the show a little bit."
Cyrus has marveled for months about the reaction to her twerking against Robin Thicke during the MTV Video Music Awards at Barclays Center in August. She knew it would get attention, but she didn't think it would become worldwide news. With the "Bangerz" tour, she hopes to get a chance to explain herself to the people who matter most to her -- her fans.
"I know sometimes people, they like to make me seem like I'm one thing, and all that I know how to do is shock people, and that's kind of my only purpose in the industry," she said. "That isn't what it is."
The fans get it
Cyrus said that people who really pay attention get her intentions. "I think girls see through it," she said. "There's a feminist energy there. ... It's just being true to who you are and what makes you feel good, and I think there's something good for girls, especially, that get to come see this show. ... It's just a show that builds up every type of human being on the planet, and a real show that, we put a lot of love into it. I just believe it has a good energy about it."
She said she appreciates the fans willing to take a chance and going along for her wild ride.
"I'm excited for the people that want to express freedom, and they can relate to my music because of that," she said. "I think a lot of my fans -- I think that's why we're so close -- when they look at me, they feel like they can be really, like truly, who they are. And I hope my fans are inspired by my show to take that to the next level."
When she does resume the tour, Cyrus plans to take her performance to the next level as well, ditching the lip-synching she did on previous tours for a completely live performance.
"It's hard to do as many stunts as I got to do on other tours because I'm really focused on people being as excited about me as a singer than for what I did to shock people," she said. "I want people to walk around being like, 'OK, she did some things that were crazy, but at the end of the day, it was really about her voice.'"
WHO Miley Cyrus
WHEN|WHERE 7 p.m. Aug. 1, Nassau Coliseum
INFO $20-$89.50; 800-745-3000, ticketmaster.com
Miley Cyrus may be only 21, but she's already released 10 albums as herself and her Disney-created alter ego Hannah Montana. Because she cranked out so much music during the past eight years, it tells the story of her transformation from teen sensation to pop artist.
TEEN HIT MACHINE The songs from this era are pure, lightweight pop, aimed at tweens to happily memorize. Her debut "Hannah Montana" (Disney) hit No. 1 on the strength of her Disney show in 2006 and spun out an astonishing nine singles that hit Billboard's Hot 100, including "Nobody's Perfect," which reached No. 27, thanks to heavy rotation on Radio Disney. "Hannah Montana 2: Meet Miley Cyrus" (Disney) was even bigger, also topping the charts and landing her a Top 10 single with the fizzy "See You Again."
MEETING MILEY The first sign that Cyrus might need to be taken seriously by non-Disney subscribers came in the spring of 2009 with "The Climb," her power ballad from "Hannah Montana: The Movie" (Disney). It showed that she had a big voice that she could actually use to connect emotionally with a song, which peaked at No. 4 on the charts. She quickly followed that with the teenage pop anthem "Party in the USA," which hit No.2 in the summer of 2009 on "The Time of Our Lives" EP.
MILEY'S 'MOVEMENT' Cyrus ran away from the pop success of "Party in the USA" on her follow-up album "Can't Be Tamed" (Hollywood), a darker, more rock-oriented album that screamed "rebellion," but didn't have many followers. That changed with last year's "Bangerz" (RCA), where Cyrus developed a controversial "movement" with her fans to embrace pop and youthful fun with hits like the notoriously twerk-filled "We Can't Stop" and the chart-
topping "Wrecking Ball."