Last Night: Hannah Montana at the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo

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After weeks trying to get press tickets from the Houston Rodeo, I finally had them in my hands. Walking away from Reliant Center, I called my nine-year-old niece Jade. I couldn’t wait to surprise her.

“Guess what I have in my hands?” I asked when she picked up.

“Hannah Monana tickets?”

I was convinced someone had let it slip, but I was wrong. Hannah Montana was simply on her mind, as she had been for the last two years. We’d tried everything to get tickets for this show and past ones, calling and getting online the minute they went on sale, with no luck. Each show sold out within minutes. The kid had been begging for the tickets incessantly. She dressed as Hannah for Halloween (complete with official Hannah wig), was constantly serenading the family with Hannah tunes, and had an arsenal of posters and fan magazines. It goes without saying that she watched the Disney show – about a normal student with a secret life as a rock star – religiously.

A relative later told me that after Jade hung up, she said it was the best day of her life. In the days before the show, she bragged to all her friends that she was going to see Hannah Montana. “I told one friend and she got really mad,” Jade told me in the car on the way to Reliant Stadium.

We got to the show early. The rodeo was still going on. Jade kept asking how long before Hannah. During the steer wrestling and barrel racing, we played Hangman. Among the answers: “I wanna see Hannah Montana,” “Miley is in the building” and “I’m bored.”

When it finally started, Jade was, of course, in the restroom. She raced back in time to hear most of “Rock Star” – sung by Hannah, not her real-life alter ego, Miley Cyrus, who would sing during the second half, without the wig. In my old-lady opinion, it didn’t matter that she missed part of the song. The pleasant bubble gum pop tunes of Hannah Montana / Miley Cyrus, all about being normal and straddling two worlds and having a good attitude, all sound the same. Of course, Jade and the six-year-old in Hannah wig sitting next to us would disagree. Both girls knew every word to every song. Actually, so did the six-year-old’s mom. We heard “Life’s What You Make It,” “Just Like You,” “Old Blue Jeans” and “Nobody’s Perfect,” complete with Britney-style underage gyrating.

Fifteen-year-old Hannah / Miley seemed 100 percent comfortable in her skin. She was super-energetic and charming, telling the crowd we were even better than the one at the last rodeo. (Of course, the previous crowd can be forgiven, considering some of them couldn’t hear the show and got refunds.) There were lots of backup dancers and costume changes to keep things moving on the rotating stage.

At the switch between Hannah and Miley, her father Billy Ray Cyrus, who also plays her dad on the show, took the stage. “Thank you for watching Hannah Montana on the Disney Channel!” he told the crowd. When he broke into “Achy Breaky Heart,” I took the opportunity to hit the restroom.

During “G.N.O (Girls’ Night Out),” Jade informed me that Miley was “obsessed with shrimp” and “boy crazy.” They have to say something in those fan ’zines, right? Later she told me that Miley’s birth name was Destiny Hope but that she’d legally changed it to Miley. Good move.

Before the encore, Miley played “Best of Both Worlds.” “Write this,” Jade said. “Theme song to the successful show Hannah Montana.” I did as she said. Then Billy Ray came back on for a final duet, “Ready, Set, Don’t Go.” Jade spent the song making bangle bracelets out of her Styrofoam cup.

And it was over. As we trekked to the car, I asked the kid how she liked the show. “It was good,” she said. “But next time I want to get closer seats.” Hardly the best day of her life – that would be the day we got the tickets – but a good one. As for me, I loved the calf scramble. – Cathy Matusow

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