April 10, 2008

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Ready to (pop) rock
Avril Lavigne and her pink sparkle drum kit hit Verizon
By Alec O'meara aomeara@hippopress.com

Avril Lavigne might have the talent, the looks, three albums and five years of success since breaking through with “Complicated” and “Sk8ter Boi”.

Modesty? That’s another story. Lavigne’s “Best Damn Tour,” promoting her most recent album, Best Damn Thing, is scheduled to arrive at the Verizon Wireless Arena in Manchester on Sunday, April 13. Tickets cost $39.50.

Needless to say, the Canadian pop superstar feels she has a quality product this time around.

“Twe’ve got dancers on a couple of songs, and LED screens, and I’m going to have checkered flooring,” Lavigne said in a teleconference interview prior to the tour’s start. “I have a pink sparkle drum kit, a pink piano being made, and lots of flags.”

This sounds less like the punk Lavigne and more like a pop princess. But Lavigne is more comfortable in her own skin these days, something that has in turn made her more willing to take center stage.

“A lot of people don’t know this about me but I’m actually shy around people I don’t know,” she said. “I would just say with my first concert, my first tour, I didn’t really talk on stage. I was like, ‘Thank you, I love you guys,’ or whatever. But now I’ve just kind of learned to work a crowd. I’ve played so many shows now, I’ve just kind of learned how to talk to an audience. And you know, the longer you do anything, the more you learn it and feel comfortable, and I was always comfortable singing, but being a performer is a totally different thing. And finally, I have enough songs that are singles that people know so I can put them in certain points that I want in the show. I can bring it up with songs like ‘Girlfriend’ and ‘Sk8er Boi,’ open and close with those big songs and bring out dancers, but I can also come down and come out on the piano with ‘When You’re Gone,’ ‘Alone,’ and ‘By Myself.’

Avril said she went old school with her latest album, went into the studio, and didn’t come out to give label execs a taste of what she was working on until she was finished. Lavigne’s gut said to go in the opposite direction of her previous release, Under My Skin, and the end result for Thing was upbeat, radio-friendly pop rock. The gamble paid off, as Best Damn Thing remained a top seller for much of 2007.

“My inspiration for this record, a lot of it came from my live show, knowing what kind of songs I wanted to play live. I wanted to play fast, fun songs. I loved playing songs like ‘Sk8er Boi’ on stage because the crowd just reacts, and I love it when everyone is freaking out and jumping. I like playing fast songs. I want my entire set to be fast,” she said. “My last record was pretty mid-tempo and darker and serious. It was like every song was like bringing down the audience, or whatever. It was just coming down and down, and I was like I want to go up. I just wanted to rock.”

Lavigne will be joined by Boys Like Girls for the concert, which is scheduled to begin at 7 p.m. Go to www.verizonwirelessarena.com.