MINNEAPOLIS — "It feels so great to play music again," Avril Lavigne announced before emphasizing the reason hundreds had gathered at the Mall of America Thursday, "new music."
The 19-year-old rocker was visibly stoked to premiere songs from her second album, Under My Skin (see "Avril Lavigne To Show Fans What Lies Beneath On New Album"), at the first stop on a 21-city mall tour. Accompanied only by her guitarist, Evan Taubenfeld, Lavigne strapped on a guitar of her own while performing acoustic selections from the disc, due May 25, that showed thematic maturity while continuing to be as bouncy and rife with hooks as anything off her multiplatinum debut, 2002's Let Go.
Although "Don't Tell Me," the first single off Under My Skin, only surfaced at radio this week, Lavigne's most dedicated fans already were able to sing along with every word. The tune, written with Taubenfeld when Let Go was still in its infancy, is one of Lavigne's "lighter, poppier" new ones, and its message that some boys are only after one thing stems from personal observation. Even if the moral was lost on some younger fans who admitted after the show that they didn't really know what the song was about, the line in which Lavigne threatens to "kick your ass" nonetheless aroused empowered cheers.
The show opened with two new cuts, "He Wasn't" and "My Happy Ending," both of which touched on disillusionment. Taubenfeld, sporting sharp black streaks in his blond shag to match Lavigne's newly dyed tips, provided rich harmony with his fellow stool-seated strummer on the choruses, amidst fervent cries of "You're sexy" and "We love you," aimed at both performers.
"Take Me Away," another one co-written by Taubenfeld, and "Nobody's Home," penned with the help of former Evanescence guitarist Ben Moody (see "So Where's Evanescence's Ben Moody? Ask Avril Lavigne"), expounded on emotional loneliness and confusion. Lavigne seeks salvation from tumultuous times in the former, while the latter, punctuated by Lavigne's shrill falsetto, is a portrait of a girl — not her, she insists — who yearns for a return to simpler times.
The five new songs she performed were met with astute gazes and mild foot-tapping, reactions that turned into unabashed elation for the Let Go hits "Sk8er Boi" and "Complicated." The delight, however, was confined to one side of the barrier separating artist from audience. Lavigne and Taubenfeld plodded through "Sk8er Boi" as if on autopilot. She rolled her eyes and stared into space while singing the outcast anthem, whose happy ending gives hope to Hot Topic-defined girls everywhere.
"Complicated" was even more lackluster. Lavigne speak-sang her way through the lyrics and told the crowd to "feel free to sing along" on the chorus, seemingly so she wouldn't have to solely bear the burden of performing her breakthrough hit for what had to have felt like the millionth time.
Rekindling old flames was not on her agenda; showing fans how she's grown since then was. She isn't likely to revel in her past for the next 20 gigs, either. Instead, Lavigne will keep her eyes fixed on the road ahead, but with a line from "Complicated" serving as a mantra for the more accomplished songwriter she's become: "Lay back, it's all been done before/ And if you could only let it be, you will see ..."
Avril Lavigne tour dates (venues announced two days before show), according to Arista Records:
- 3/5 - Milwaukee, WI
- 3/8 - Chicago, IL
- 3/9 - Detroit, MI
- 3/16 - Boston, MA
- 3/17 - New York, NY
- 3/18 - Philadelphia, PA
- 3/19 - Washington, DC
- 3/22 - Atlanta, GA
- 3/23 - Cincinnati, OH
- 3/24 - Cleveland, OH
- 3/25 - Indianapolis, IN
- 3/26 - St. Louis, MO
- 4/7 - Seattle, WA
- 4/8 - Portland, OR
- 4/9 - San Francisco, CA
- 4/12 - Los Angeles, CA
- 4/13 - Phoenix, AZ
- 4/14 - Denver, CO
- 4/15 - Dallas, TX
- 4/15 - Houston, TX
For a feature-length interview with Avril, check out "Avril Lavigne: No Looking Back".
For more sights and stories from concerts around the country, check out MTV News Tour Reports.