There’s something about Miley. From the moment she shed the teen idol image, her ongoing quest to make herself America’s oddest pop star has been click bait catnip for cultural commentators and the casually curious. 

Last night, Vancouver’s Queen Elizabeth Theatre hosted the penultimate date of her Milky Milky Milk Tour, an evening that demonstrated that in the race to continually confound expectations, Miley Cyrus is laps ahead of the competition. 

You want a pop star going against the grain? In an age when Adele has reclaimed her pop throne by pairing old Lionel Richie ideas with Celine Dion lungpower, young Miley has hit the road with veteran alt-rock weirdoes The Flaming Lips, playing shows with 90 per cent of the set list taken from her latest free-to-download ‘experimental’ album, “Miley Cyrus and Her Dead Petz.”

Rejecting the pop rulebook entirely, Cyrus began the night with an appeal, speaking passionately about her involvement in Pacific Wild’s ‘Save BC Wolves’ campaign, all the while sporting a tiny gold dress with “DO IT!” emblazoned across the front in inflatable letters, a tactic foolishly never employed by David Suzuki.

Campaigning over, the chaos began; the visual and sonic cacophonies of openers “Dooo It” and “Love Money Party” both accompanied by dancers, countless balloons, and endless streams of confetti. An undeniably fabulous start to proceedings. 

Costume change number one saw the star re-emerge as a smiling sun for “1 Sun,” the first in a long line of plodding Dead Petz songs that could easily be mistaken for Flaming Lips tracks if it weren’t for Cyrus’ consistently excellent vocals. Even though her attempts to keep her tonsils lubricated fell at the first hurdle.

“You ask your drummer if you can have some of his water,” she smiled, bottle in hand, “and he says it’s whiskey.”

The pace picked up for “BB Talk,” Cyrus spouting lyrics that would make parents’ hair curl while wearing a genuinely funny baby suit, a costume she stripped out of during twisted bedroom jam “Fweaky” before singing “Bang Me Box,” as unsubtle as it sounds, wearing very few clothes indeed. 

Going for a literal lyrical interpretation, Cyrus reappeared dressed as a pack of butter for “Slab of Butter,” arguably the purest rock and roll track of the entire night. She’d saved the best fashion moments for the end however, unveiling a mirrored cat suit for “Tiger Dreams.” 

Finally left alone on stage, Cyrus sat at a piano and reminded the Vancouver crowd of the importance of protecting B.C.’s wildlife, “Last time I checked, trophies don’t have a pulse,” while remaining utterly unphased by a busted zipper. “I try to wear clothes and the universe doesn’t want me to!” 

Ignoring the wardrobe malfunction she delivered “Pablow the Blowfish,” the best song of the night, alone, demonstrating both her musicianship and underrated vocal talents. 

For anyone concerned that this subtler side of Cyrus was dampening her thirst for controversy, that worry was immediately dismissed as she strode out for her encore sporting fake boobs and what could only be described as an enormous strap-on dildo. 

The dreary mid-paced indie of “Karen Don’t Be Sad” and “Evil Is But A Shadow” meant that this encore was more interesting to look at than listen to, but salvation eventually arrived in the finale of “We Can’t Stop,” only the second pre-Dead Petz song of the night and a deserved reward for the patient fans optimistically waiting for something to dance to. 

Hit and miss? Indulgent? Sure. But radical, fan-alienating shifts in musical direction have been core sections of the playbooks of legendary rock stars for decades. Young, female pop stars, on the other hand, are supposed to sing the hits and send the fans home happy. Miley Cyrus does not play by those rules. 

She may not care what the general public thinks of her. But she does care about B.C. wildlife and she cares about her art.