Review: Avril Lavigne makes most of sparse crowd in Vancouver
When: Monday night
Where: Rogers Arena
VANCOUVER – Judging by Avril Lavigne’s personal trajectory over the past few years, one would have thought the Canadian pop princess would find a way to somehow reinvent herself.
Following the failure of her heavily publicized marriage to Sum 41′s Deryck Whibley, Lavigne took a long time to restore her musical footing, three long years separating her jubilant The Best Damn Thing and this year’s contemplative Goodbye Lullabye, a more “adult” album that compiled her thoughts and reflections in the wake of her divorce.
Billed as a more intimate evening with the singer, Lavigne’s Black Star Tour couldn’t have picked a more awkward setting for her Vancouver appearance: Rogers Arena.
Lavigne’s presence felt tiny on that big stage Monday night.
It certainly didn’t help that the arena’s stands were largely empty, especially at the back of the room, creating a cavernous echo that swallowed up any sense of intimacy.
Though official numbers were not readily available, one could probably estimate a crowd size of about 4,000 and not be too far off the mark.
In fact, that might even be slightly generous.
And the last-minute addition of Vegas pop-rockers The Cab to a list of openers that already included histrionic singer-songwriter and Lavigne collaborator Evan Taubenfeld and Montreal ADHD dance-rockers The New Cities made it feel like the evening was going to be a long one indeed.
When Lavigne’s set time finally came, a good 20 minutes later than scheduled, it probably felt like sweet relief for the handful of kids, teens and parents in attendance.
(Lavigne’s appeal, almost a decade later, seems to continue recruiting kids rather than to grow and include older fans.)
On a stage draped in red and white velvet, Lavigne – sporting her leather pants and rock ‘n’ roll t-shirt – kicked off with the titular Black Star, a moody piano-heavy tune.
But rather than aiming to show any sort of vulnerability, Lavigne quickly reverted back to brash pop mode, dipping into What The Hell and quickly dispensing with Sk8er Boi, tossing around a few curses and declaring her love for Vancouver “because it’s Canada” and “because I lived here for six months.”
“It’s pretty badass to be back in Canada,” she said. “We’re going to need you to go f—ing crazy!”
As far as stage banter goes, Lavigne is particularly awful, talking forever between songs without saying anything interesting or exciting or fun, her five-piece backing band forced to keep up with her by playing the same music loops over and over to kill time.
At least Lavigne has a decent enough voice, which she showcased on the poppy He Wasn’t and with a deeper emotional touch on power ballads Don’t Tell Me and Alice, the song she provided to the Alice in Wonderland soundtrack.
She still lacks a true stage presence, though, and more often than not it felt like Lavigne and her crew were painting by numbers, supported by a rather ordinary lighting and sound design.
Her fans, however, still love the anthems that made Lavigne a star, from Boyfriend to I’m With You, the show culminating in an encore featuring mega-hit Complicated.
If anything, the Black Star Tour stop at Rogers Arena showcased more weaknesses than strengths for Lavigne who, at 27, should be going full-on with a big rebound performance.
Instead, the show seemed unsure of its true direction, mostly sticking to the past and trying to please a still largely teenage fanbase, unable to offer something that felt bigger than an all-too-short collection of new, deeper tunes peppered with Lavigne’s obligatory pop radio classics, both of which meshed together poorly.
And then there was the Black Star tag, a nod to Lavigne’s fragrance line launched over two years ago, which gave the whole thing a weird product placement after-taste.
Ultimately, the concert just showed how Lavigne, through her own volition or that of her management team, is still trapped somewhere between her bratty pop princess status and a truly reinvented spot in the adult-alternative mainstream.
Considering how poorly attended Monday night’s show was, maybe it’s time for a change.
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