PHOENIX — If there's anyone who would leave Britney feeling "so yesterday" among the preteen set, it's Hilary Duff. She has the kind of sex appeal that leaves little boys fawning over their first crushes, and girls yearning to be just like her.
It was this kind of electricity that she generated Monday during her tour opener at Celebrity Theatre. She dazzled the young, glow-stick-grasping crowd with her playfulness and decidedly rock attitude, kicking off the show with "Girl Can Rock," a bonus track from her debut LP, Metamorphosis. The crowd could relate to her. She sounded like one of them, liberally peppering her between-song banter with the word "like."
But the sold-out audience didn't particularly care what she had to say. Most of her words were buried in errant screams and shouts of "I love you, Hilary!" Her fans quieted at times, though, especially when it was clear she was going to tell a poignant story. This was the case when she launched into a speech about just how special the song "Sweet Sixteen" is to her.
"My sister actually wrote it," Duff said of the upbeat, party-themed tune, adding that she recently turned 16. "If you know it, sing along with it. If you don't, well, have fun with it."
The song seemed to put the crowd under a spell. Ambitious little girls went AWOL, abandoning their seats and jockeying for a better view of Duff closer to the stage. Little nimble fingers tried desperately to grasp Duff as she approached the edge of the stage.
And for her part, Duff's persona didn't appear to be unlike her television and movie character Lizzie McGuire. Although she was stable on her feet (her character is somewhat of a charming, well, klutz), Duff seemed somewhat nervous onstage in between songs. She played with her hair, stared at the ceiling and giggled a lot.
Unlike some of her teenage peers, Duff kept her show simple. There were no pyrotechnics, props or multiple costume changes. She was all about the rock, dressed in low-riding jeans (which she kept tugging on nervously) adorned with chains and a dark shirt. A simple black curtain served as her backdrop while her seven-piece band backed her. Occasionally, red and white lights, à la the White Stripes, illuminated the stage.
The perky Duff stuck closely to her album Metamorphosis save for the finale, which left something for the parents — a paltry cover of the Who's "My Generation." And the melancholy "So Yesterday" and the sprightly "Why Not" were crowd favorites and Duff knew it.
"This song is 'Why Not,' " she said of one of the evening's final songs. "You gotta know it," she said with a smile, encouraging the crowd to dance along with the chorus.
For more sights and stories from concerts around the country, check out MTV News Tour Reports.