Avril Lavigne at Patriot Center: It's All About Her

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Who says Canadians are all sweetness and light? Much of Avril Lavigne's appeal, and there's a ton to go around, comes from how loathsome she is.

At the Patriot Center on Tuesday, Lavigne pumped herself up and tore down her rivals at a level commonly found among gangsta rappers and pro wrestling heels. Her narcissistic shtick, presented with help from a hard-rocking quintet and featured amid 75 minutes worth of fabulously crafted pop-rock songs, enthralled the huge and mostly young female audience.

Her best tunes have long flaunted "mean girl" themes. All the way back to her first smash, the bouncy and melodic "Sk8er Boi" from 2002, she's shown she's not content with just winning the boy; she has to win the boy and rub it in the face of the boy's ex. While introducing "Don't Tell Me," Lavigne told the audience the song "is about being strong and standing up for yourself!" Well, that and beating up your disappointing boyfriend.

In previous tours, the teensy Lavigne appeared shy onstage as she belted out such tales of insufferability. But now 23 and married, she pulls off the act, if it is an act, with wondrous believability. During "I Don't Have to Try," she screamed, "It's all about me!" and the girls in the grandstand screamed with her. "How many girls out there always get what they want?" she said before playing the garagey, Joan Jett-ish "I Always Get What I Want."

Lavigne suffered accusations early in her career that she was a record label creation and a pre-fab pop star. But she's now a fabulous singer.

Changing from a black outfit to a blacker outfit every several songs, she turned the narcissism knob up to 11 for "The Best Damn Thing." She brought out a group of dancers dressed as cheerleaders and carrying large placards, and forced the troupe to lead the crowd in spelling out A-V-R-I-L and to yell her name. Even on a night full of bluster, this combo of pompoms and pomposity came off as W-E-I-R-D.

-- Dave McKenna

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