Crowd gives Avril Lavigne big, wet one

By Jae-Ha Kim
Chicago Sun-Times
September 9, 2002

Every generation has a hero, and this one seems to idolize Avril Lavigne–the neck-tie wearing, skateboarding Canadian teenager whose plaintive songs have struck a chord with teenagers. Of course in kid years, a generation only lasts a couple years tops.

But judging by her debut album, “Let Go,” and the strength of her live performances, Lavigne appears to have the talent and tenacity to mature as an artist who will continue to win fans regardless of her core following growing up.

At the sold-out KISS Star Party Friday night at the Rosemont Theatre, the teeny-tiny 17-year-old from Canada garnered more screams than even Backstreet Boy Nick Carter, who hosted the event. Playing just over half an hour, the singer energetically jumped around like she was on a trampoline, played guitar and sang amusing, catchy songs she had co-written.

Dressed in loose skater pants, a rugby short and her trademark necktie, Lavigne whipped through a selection of cuts from “Let Go,” including her breakthrough single “Complicated”: “You’re making me laugh out loud/When you strike your pose/Take off all your preppy clothes/You know you’re not fooling anyone/When you become somebody else, ’round everyone else.”

Lavigne has a way with words that cut to the chase. Her youth comes across in songs like the punky power pop song “Sk8er Boi”–which she misspells in deliberate schoolgirl cool affectation. Dressing down another girl who rejected a boy because he dressed like a slacker skateboarder, Lavigne then ups the ante by reveling in the boy’s newfound rock star status and hers as his girlfriend. Is the song autobiographical? Could be, but you get the feeling she changed the sexes around and she’s the rejected kid who rose to the top.

Though plenty of fans emulated her by adding neckties to their ensembles, it was obvious Britney Spears’ influence wasn’t completely lost–too many young girls spent time tugging at their shirts and low-rider jeans. Lavigne will be back for a solo tour in a few months, which means fans won’t have to sit through such an odd mishmash of acts before getting to see her perform. Some of the children in the audience weren’t even born when Naughty By Nature, which preceded Lavigne, hit it big in 1991 with “O.P.P.”

And there was just something weird and wrong watching audience members dance onstage with them–especially with some looking like strippers in training, while others appeared to have just started kindergarten.

BB Mak was delightful in a bland, inoffensive way, singing lush ballads such as “Out of My Heart.” Mario’s truncated set barely got going before it was over. And Fat Joe stayed on 15 minutes too long.

Which leads me back to Nick Carter. I’m not sure why he was there and what his role was other than to make some girls very happy.

Wearing a black T-shirt bearing the words “Bite Me,” he popped onstage a few times, gave a minor plug for his upcoming solo album and disappeared.

Note to future acts touring in similar teen-friendly shows: You never, ever have to say to the audience, “Let me hear you scream!”

That’s a given.

So let’s not and say we did.

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