Glammed-Up Avril Still Rocks Out; Plays Guitar, Piano, Drums On Tour

Singer ducks rumors of an engagement to Sum 41's Deryck Whibley.

The decidedly ladylike look Avril Lavigne sports in her “Nobody’s Home” clip isn’t just confined to the make-believe world of music videos. The 20-year-old rocker has ditched the skinny ties and tank tops in favor of a look more Glamour than Hot Topic.

“Everyone’s [asking me], ‘Are you more girlie now?’ And it’s like, ‘Well, yeah, I’m becoming a woman. I’m growing up,’ ” she explained backstage before Thursday’s show at Chicago’s United Center. “I’m getting old — not quite, but I definitely think my style is changing. Of course it’s going to; when I first came out I was 17 years old. I was a kid. Now I’m 20. You’re going to change tremendously through those years.”

During Lavigne’s time in the spotlight — since the release of her 2002 debut, Let Go — she’s done a good job of shaking the Sk8er Girl tag that stuck after the song “Sk8er Boi” ushered her into the pop scene. She’s kept one step ahead of the fans who mimicked her style at shows while being careful to label their practice of straightening their hair and wearing wristbands flattering rather than unimaginative.

These days, bouncy curls have been known to cascade down her shoulders, and she’s applying makeup rather glamorously. Could it have anything to do with those rumors of an engagement to Sum 41′s Deryck Whibley (see “Sum 41 Singer Not Engaged To Avril Lavigne, His Reps Say” )? Could Lavigne be getting ready for her wedding day?

“I don’t talk about my personal life,” she said, a tattoo of a heart surrounding the letter “D” clearly visible on her wrist. “I choose not to talk about anything that has to do with my personal life or my love life because I don’t want people talking about it. Some people, like Britney, choose to, and a lot of people focus on that. Whenever I see her in the press, it’s about who she’s marrying or who she’s dating. I would just prefer to have people talk about my music. That’s why I’m here.”

To that end, she’s been giving people lots to discuss on her current tour, which wraps up at the end of the month. She plays guitar on five songs in the set, a new skill she demonstrated on an acoustic promo tour before her second album, Under My Skin, dropped in May (see “Avril Lavigne Reveals What’s Under HerSkin ). “Slipped Away,” “Together” and “Forgotten” are performed seated before a piano, and she even gets behind the kit to pound on the drums for a cover of Blur’s “Song 2,” while opening act Butch Walker, co-writer for some of Under My Skin, takes over vocals.

“I had drums growing up,” she explained. “I always knew how to sit down and play a simple beat. I’m not a pro — I mean, I can’t hear a song and learn it like that. I have to sit down and practice. I wanted to do drums on a song, and I picked ‘Song 2′ because I thought it had a cool drum beat and it’s a song everyone knows. It gets the crowd going.”

The one thing Avril simply won’t play onstage is a vocal track. After Ashlee Simpson’s “Saturday Night Live” imbroglio (see “Ashlee Simpson’s ‘SNL’ Excuse Bolstered By Rehearsal Tape” ), Lavigne has been shamelessly outspoken in denouncing the practice, as if challenging every artist to forgo the theatrics and live up to the simple expectation of singing live.

“If you are up there at that level and lip-synching, then you don’t deserve to be there,” she said vehemently. “There are way too many talented people, struggling musicians, trying to make it, and they can’t make it because there is so much competition out there. I’m not saying that towards [Simpson]; I’m saying that about lip-synching in general. I find it a disgrace to the music industry. Music is supposed to be about making records and getting up onstage and playing live, and half the people up there don’t even do that. It’s not cool. It’s lame.”