Avril Lavigne — the current pop star of choice for teen and pre-teen girls — is about halfway through her first major headlining tour, and this much is clear from her uninspired performance: She’s not equipped yet to be a top-line concert draw, and she’s in need of serious road work, either in much smaller venues, or as an opener for a more seasoned act.
Playing multi-artist pop festivals and TV appearances — where short, hits-only sets and lip-syncing is the order of the day — served Lavigne well early in the promotional cycle for her multi-platinum “Let Go” (Arista) album. And jumping straight to playing large hockey arenas next may make sense from a marketing standpoint with such a break-out artist, but in this case, the star is revealed for the rookie she is.
Lavigne brought almost nothing in terms of personality or enlightenment to her songs of high school love and heartbreak during her stripped-down, boring hour-plus production, aside from a few perfunctory introductions.
Instead, she chose either to stand in place or to stoically march around the large stage, and simply deliver rote versions of her semi-punk pop tunes, nearly all of which were co-written (or, in some cases written entirely) by her older, male, songwriting partners.
With only the one album to draw from, her set-list was augmented by familiar cover songs, but even these did little to add energy to the show. Most in the crowd seemed happy to hear her perform Green Day’s “Basket Case,” but the metal stomp of “Fuel” by Metallica was an unwelcome surprise to an audience more accustomed to hearing such noise come out of older brothers’ bedrooms. And Bob Dylan’s expressive “Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door” was just a foolish choice for such a green performer.
Of the tracks lifted from “Let Go” — which has surpassed sales of 6 million in the U.S. — “Sk8er Boi” was a decent show opener, but Lavigne did little to maintain the energy which naturally occurs at the start of a sold-out concert, and she spent the remainder of the show trying to coax the house from being happy to be there to being truly excited.
“Complicated” is an undeniably catchy tune, but the semi-acoustic version delivered here was also a disappointment. An even bigger bummer for the kids was found in the gouging at the merchandise booths, where even the smallest girls’ T-shirts were priced at an eye-popping $35.