Avril Lavigne’s Head Above Water tour is both a re-introduction (she’s playing a rooftop in New York City after 40M+ records sold) and a career-celebrating encapsulation of the artist that defined the sound of the early 2000’s.
Lavigne inaugurates her set with the crashing mid-tempo title track of her latest studio release, then launches into the morose and angsty breakup anthem ‘My Happy Ending.’ Subsequently, she escorts us down a road of her biggest hits, including ‘Complicated,’ ‘Girlfriend,’ ‘Here’s To Never Growing Up,’ and of course ‘Sk8er Boi.’ The energy and nostalgia throughout the crowd were palpable, most notably as the first chords of the singles from Lavigne’s first album, ‘Let Go,’ were unraveled.
As with any artist entrenched in the minds and hearts of the American (and global) public, returning to the music scene after six years away means that the set list must remain collective enough for more nescient concert attendees. Therefore naturally many who are invested in Lavigne’s deep cuts were a little let down that she only performed four tracks from Head Above Water, and no other album track from any previous release got the chance to stretch its legs after years of dormancy. Despite this minor letdown, Lavigne’s vocals were exquisite, and her energy was one of an artist deeply grateful to be performing for a crowd.
Lavigne’s image has metamorphosed throughout the last seventeen years, highlighted by her choice to end her set with the ruminative and sure-to-be-timeless ‘I’m With You.’ Lavigne, now 35, has matured into a woman with a deeply complex story to tell, who has aged out of her rebellious teen persona, but one who has not abandoned the edge and spunk that catapulted her to fame.
The Head Above Water tour likely won’t go down as Lavigne’s most well-recalled trek around the world. It feels like less of an album tour, and more of a reminder of her last seventeen years of contributions to music. But it is triumphant. It’s a beautifully nostalgic experience nodding to Lavigne’s silent assertion that still has things she would like to say. And she has earned her right to say them (ideally in larger spaces) for years to come.