- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 24, 2004

Hours before the Avril Lavigne “Live and by Surprise” miniconcert on a parking deck March 19 at the Westfield Shoppingtown Montgomery (Montgomery Mall for all you natives), Hot Topic, the retail purveyor of all things punk and pugnacious, was abuzz with teen shoppers.

Not all were fans of the 19-year-old Canadian pop idol.

“Like I’d go see her,” one punked-out, driving-age teen said to the heavily pierced and tattooed salesperson — who, like, totally agreed as she stood amid racks of fashions inspired by the neo-punker.

They and others sharing their somewhat lukewarm response were outnumbered by more than 1,000 young girls — mostly between the ages 10 and 16 — who screamed every word of the six songs Miss Lavigne performed during an afternoon concert where details of her appearance were divulged just 48 hours in advance.

On a 21-mall tour to hype her new album, “Under My Skin” (scheduled for release May 25), Miss Lavigne showed up 15 minutes late for her show on the makeshift stage in the frigid garage, where fans had lined up for hours before the 5 p.m. concert.

“It’s so cold up here,” the heavily made-up pixie said when she took the stage. “It’s freezing,” said heartthrob Evan Taubenfeld, the band’s guitarist. “And you’ve been waiting,” the pop star added. The pair sat on stools for the stripped-down acoustic set, with each banging out chords that often were drowned out by the crowd of singing girls.

Clad in black pants covered with zippers, a black shirt, leather jacket and black-and-white checked sneakers, Miss Lavigne — often dubbed the thinking girl’s Hilary Duff — launched into a 30-minute set of old and new tunes.

On the new single “Don’t Tell Me,” a self-penned anthem of abstinence and teen celibacy, Miss Lavigne intoned: “This one is for the girls.” “Don’t think that your charm and the fact that your arm is now around my neck, will get you in my pants, I’ll have to kick your … , and make you never forget.”

Miss Lavigne sang in a powerful voice as the teeny-boppers in the crowd continued to wail at the top of their lungs.

Britney and Christina she decidedly is not. She’s more like a teen-accessible Alanis Morissette with her angst encased in a PG program.

Of course, Miss Lavigne performed her hits “SK8er Boi” and “Complicated,” on which she asked Mr. Taubenfeld, “Can you get through this?”

His reply: “For, like, the 15 millionth time.”

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