For a father, the sweetest moment of Miley Cyrus' concert in Baltimore last night came toward the end, as she sat on a stool, eyes glistening, playing guitar and singing the ballad "I Miss You" in memory of her late grandfather. The audience, mostly young girls and moms, swayed with their glow sticks, echoing the Tennessee wheat field shown on the giant video screen on stage.
1st Mariner Arena was jammed, but the audience wasn't as varied as I expected. Perhaps because my son and his friends are fans, I expected more boys, but the men in the house couldn't have filled a bus. The singer surely has fans in their late teens, but last night's crowd was predominantly young girls and moms.
In a city that's perfected yelling "O," never has the vowel "E," as in "eeeeeeeeee," echoed so loudly. With all due respect to the baby boomer audiences filling arenas for golden oldies, no group can make more noise than a venue full of tween girls.
Two hours before the show, the shrieking echoed to Fayette Street, a block from the arena. Minivans with whitewashed windows were decorated with greetings to the singer. Even though Hannah Montana was inside by that point, every bus that pulled up outside threatened the break the sound barrier. Helicopters circled above, and children wondered: Was she arriving by air, like Santa?
Her tour was dubbed "The Best of Both Worlds," to describe the performer Miley Cyrus and her Disney-TV alter-ego Hannah Montana, but it could just as well have referred to the various contradictions on display last evening.
Girls screaming for the curly-haired boy band (the Jonas Brothers) that opened the show was a timeless scene, at least for the past half-century or so, but for the modernity of digital cameras in nearly everyone's hand. Parents did some embarrassing and ghastly things to win tickets for Hannah's show, but the sight of mothers and daughters singing together was a rare and precious moment.
And Miley's allure is partly that she's an innocent 15 -- an intermission music video showed her father, Billy Ray, singing with childhood snapshots of her in the background. But her poise on stage, whisking through costume changes -- knee-high go-go boots here, a flamenco dress there -- makes her present much older.
My graying hair might suggest otherwise, but kids do keep you young -- and tapped into the interest of the moment.
I haven't moved fast enough to invest money in the passing obsessions of my children and their friends, and that's my loss. They've unintentionally tuned me in to things before they became much more widely known, including Thomas the Tank Engine, Power Rangers, the Spice Girls, Pokemon cards, instant messaging, phone texting, the Nintendo Wii.
Some people say such creations are just manufactured by corporate America, but anything that can fill an arena with children singing with their parents is all right by me.
Andrew Ratner is The Sun's Today editor. An Abingdon resident, he is the married father of three children.