OAKLAND — The sheer number of phones held aloft as the lights dimmed at the Fox Theater Tuesday was a fairly accurate indicator of the buzz in the room for Avril Lavigne’s return to the Bay Area. While she hasn’t toured for five years, Bay Area fans have to go back even further to trace the last headlining show by Lavigne in the area.
A video screen played a dramatic scene from Lavigne’s most recent videos mashed up together until she emerged wearing the white chiffon dress from the “Head Above Water” music video. Lavigne delivered a soaring vocal on the piano-laden power ballad. It was only the third show of her comeback tour following her battle with Lyme disease. But in many ways, it felt like Lavigne had never left. Her voice had new depth and power, but her performance was just as bouncy, energetic and fun as in the past.
Lavigne’s performance was a statement of growth she’s made in the past three years and a celebration of the hits that ruled pop radio earlier in her career. After the opening track the band played an interlude leading into one of the Canadian singer’s biggest hits, “My Happy Ending.” Fans seemed to connect with Lavigne from the show’s first notes and never let up. At times the crowd overpowered the singer’s vocals.
“Here’s To Never Growing Up” felt like the theme of evening for the late 20s and early 30s crowd. Lavigne then played through a mix of balladry and kiss-off anthems like “What The Hell.”
She reflected on being 17 and hearing her music played on the radio for the first time before diving into “Complicated.” The song held up as infectiously as it did when it was released. Scenes from Lavigne’s music videos played on the screen throughout the show. She then toned things down for “It Was In Me,” a vulnerable ballad that showcased the strides Lavigne has made vocally on her latest album.
Lavigne threw the first curveball of the night on “Breakaway,” a song she penned that appeared Kelly Clarkson’s sophomore album of the same name. She continued to focus on more mature material with anthem “Keep Holding On,” sat behind a piano for “When You’re Gone” and strapped on an electric guitar for the empowering “Don’t Tell Me.”
The band jumped in for an extended instrumental interlude, turning pop thumper “Hello Kitty” into a hard rock jam, and from there the party was on. Lavigne closed out the rest of her set with the upbeat, singalong anthems for which she’s best known, starting with the stomps and handclaps of “Girlfriend.”
Flipping up the hood on her sweatshirt and striking a playful pose, Lavigne launched into new cut “Dumb Blonde.” The arrangement had a number of changes from the album version, a collaboration with Nicki Minaj. The song still had Minaj’s line but Lavigne’s own extended bridge, as well as some lyrical revisions that made the song a bit more explicit than the album version.
With a sparkling Fender electric guitar, Lavigne led the crowd through the intro of the pop-punk rocker “He Wasn’t.”
“What do you think; should I play the drums?” she then asked.
Lavigne sat behind the drum kit and sang on Weezer’s “Beverly Hills” with opening act Jagwar Twin returning to the stage to sing lead. She closed out her main set with “Sk8er Boi,” encouraging fans to bounce along with the chorus.
After a brief break, Lavigne returned in a flowing red dress to play piano on ballad “I Fell In Love With the Devil.” The song is one of the best tracks Lavigne has ever penned, mixing a dramatic and haunting vocal melody with a lyrical dark intensity. It was one of the night’s biggest highlights. The show ended with another big ballad, “I’m With You,” which was made even better with the singer’s vocal progression.
Jagwar Twin opened the concert with an electrifying performance. Singer-songwriter Roy English provided a dynamic and eclectic opening set that mixed classic rock energy with a hip-hop swagger.
His songs were uplifting jams heavy on groove with a raw guitar rock influence. English wore an unbutton suit jacket, Hawaiian shirt and his hair tied behind his head. His vocals were smooth and soulful but powerful enough to push on the more rock-influenced songs. Playing “Dream/Dream,” “Long Time Coming” and “Good Day” before closing with the infectious “Loser,” Jagwar Twin proved to be an act deserving of attention.