When Avril Lavigne strides onstage and launches into the pop punk of "Sk8erboi," her small physical stature is startling given the power of her music. However, her petite 5'2" frame contains a powerful enough voice to convincingly lead an adoring audience through a tight set of tunes from her two multi-platinum albums.
Connecting With the Crowd
With flowing blonde hair and clad simply in a Pam Tillis t-shirt, jeans and boots, Lavigne perfectly embodies the persona reflected in her latest album Under My Skin, that of a young woman caught between teen years and adulthood boldly facing the years to come with independence and grit. On this night she had a few thousand fans at a similar point in life or seeking guidance for those years to come. Scattered throughout the crowd on a Saturday night at the Mark in Moline, Illinois, were fans sporting glowing, or flashing, devil horns in tribute to Lavigne's notorious penchant for mischief. Standing on the main floor among what can only be described as a family-friendly crowd, I marveled at Avril Lavigne's ability to make hard-edged, punk-influenced rock in concert accessible to, and popular among, such a young audience.
The Songwriter and Her Music
Unlike most top pop-rock performers her age, Avril Lavigne is a co-writer on all of her original songs. Stretched out over more than an hour, there is a bit of sameness about her material, but the words about independence, relationships, and growing up strike universal chords in her audience. Through the majority of songs in the concert I did not have to look far to see fans singing along with every word of the songs being performed onstage.
Outstanding Opening Act
Specific mention should be made of Butch Walker, Lavigne's opening act for the Bonez tour. Walker is a musical veteran at age 35 and a former leader of the trio the Marvelous 3 that scored big with "Freak Of the Week" in the late 90's. He participated in songwriting and production on Avril Lavigne's current Under My Skin album, and, subsequently, was asked to open on her tour. His half hour opening set blitzed through songs from his current album Letters and even included an adrenaline-stoked version of Kelly Clarkson's hit "Since U Been Gone." Butch Walker is a seasoned performer who knows how to entertain, and the crowd was pleased.
A Concert Career That Has Just Begun
As a concert performer, Avril Lavigne is still quite young and it shows. From "Sk8erboi" through such hits as "Fall To Pieces," a strong Blink-182 cover, and the massive first hit "Complicated" as an encore, her stage patter is minimal. Lavigne's flitting about the stage lacks any particular sense of inventiveness or strong playing to the crowd. However, a 20-year-old female rock solo performer has never had the music industry power that Avril Lavigne commands. To the chagrin of punk purists, Simple Mind's presence opening on an earlier Avril Lavigne tour helped launch them to success with teens and pre-teens and consequently bring punk pop squarely into the mainstream. Her swift emergence as a star in the early 80's has been one of the pieces that has moved mainstream pop radio back to a more eclectic playlist from the hip hop dominated late 90's. Clearly, at the age of 20, Avril Lavigne's journey as a top rock performer has barely begun, and she has plenty of time to hone her concert skills.
The Bonez Tour continues through September.