With the resurgence of pop-punk (mall-punk) currently underway, it’s only fitting that the pop-punk princess herself Avril Lavigne has returned. Her return also includes her latest album Love Sux, and the subsequent Bite Me tour. A tour that saw its first leg cross our fair country, wrapping up last Thursday night here in Halifax at the Scotiabank Centre. It has been well over a decade since Avril was onstage in Halifax (her last stop was back in October 2011), and it was a show that was only a few days removed from the 20th anniversary of Avril’s debut album Let Go.
While it has been over a decade since Avril was in Halifax, during that time she has released two more albums and for a moment doubted that she would ever make music again after a harrowing battle with Lyme disease. During her absence, it was apparent how indelible a mark she left on the musical and pop-culture landscapes. Her honest, angsty and accessible songwriting resonated with a whole generation of artists who cite Avril as a definite influence and signpost artist in their evolution. Notable artists such as Billie Eilish, Yungblud, Olivia Rodrigo and Phoebe Bridgers all count Avril among the artists who helped inform their listening and helped pave their way to success.
Now it would be easy to classify Avril Lavigne as a pop artist, but early on she fought to shrug off the image that the labels wanted her to portray. She wasn’t one for the glittery, revealing wardrobe that was being offered, instead opting for a comfortable tank top, and loosely tied necktie. She was surely a punk at heart, and after her success, she earned the right to do things her way. There was no pretense that accompanied that genuine punk integrity, and that honesty was what endeared her to her devoted fan base.
Walking up to the venue on Thursday evening, it was no surprise to see the legion of fans adorned in their tank tops, neckties and black dickies. The majority of folks were proudly rocking their Avril cosplay, ready to revel in the Lavigne experience. This experience was one that was shared across generations, between mothers and daughters, friends, diehards, and those who were just getting into Avril Lavigne for the first time. While this reviewer felt a bit like an alien on a foreign planet, the energy in the room was boundless and indubitably infectious, and seeing the joy on a little girl’s face as she raced up the stairs to gush excitedly to her mom between songs was enough to melt even the stodgiest grinch’s heart.
Needless to say, this was a crowd ready to squee in delight at each and every song Lavigne plucked from her extensive songbook. As this was a tour to support her latest album Love Sux, the set kicked off with a 1-2 punch from the album’s opening track “Cannonball” and tour namesake “Bite Me”, and from there we were off to the races. If you were even a casual listener of Avril’s music, you would have known the lion’s share of these songs, including set staples “Complicated”, “Sk8er Boi”, “My Happy Ending” (which is still lodged deep inside my head), and “Girlfriend”, many of which are still heard regularly on the radiowaves. It was also entertaining to watch a plethora of large black and orange beachballs bounce about the arena for the duration of the evening.
When the final piece of confetti fluttered down from the rafters, it was evident that the pop-punk princess Avril Lavigne has a gift for melodies and earworms that will get in your ear and never leave. It was a fun night of music that left many folks sweaty and smiling and will be a night many folks will remember for a long time to come. That little girl from before needed a little help from mom to navigate the stairs while wrangling one of the aforementioned beachballs; who knows, this show might have inspired the next Avril Lavigne.
Opening this final night of the tour was one of the hottest acts in Canada, The Beaches, a band that has only grown exponentially since they last graced the Scotiabank Centre stage supporting July Talk and Matt Mays. While they feigned that the crowd may be unfamiliar with their material, after a brief tutorial the crowd was ready to take over lead vocalist duties. It was a set that was over far too soon, but it was a treat to hear the band work through hits such as “Want What You Got”, “T-Shirt” and “Blow-Up”. Hopefully the next time we see Jordan, Kylie, Leandra and Eliza back in town, they are headlining their own show.