This past Saturday night was special. Canada’s pop-punk Princess, Avril Lavigne was only the second artist this year to perform at the Casino Rama Entertainment Centre since Covid shut the world down for over two years. Entering the venue after such an unprecedented break had this writer feeling almost overwhelmed that we could finally get back to live coverage. This gathering, in this place. A gathering that’s happened so many times before, but this time it was so much more special. The crowd was equal parts veteran Avril fans, and, clearly, younger, newer fans who also identify with the punk-infused snippets of her life. Hot on the heels of Lavigne’s brand new album, Love Sux, released in February 2022, this was also the first show of her “Bite Me 2022 Canadian Tour.”

She appeared in shadow behind a giant curtain holding a bunch of black balloons reminiscent of the photo on the new album cover. The curtain dropped and Lavigne tore straight into “Cannonball” and “Bite Me” from that album. Dressed in a bejewelled tartan mini skirt and black leather jacket emblazoned with song titles from her new album, she commanded the stage and the crowd like the rockstar she is! From one side of the stage to the other, on two risers, she belted out her amazingly powerful vocals through her red rhinestone-covered microphone.

A giant video wall behind the band flashed Lavigne’s signature song titles, lyrics and other graphics as well as vintage concert footage of her younger self on stage, taking the world by storm. Lavigne sprinkled something from all her albums into the 75-minute, 16-song setlist. The new material was very well received. The album can be considered a throwback to her days starting out when her debut album Let Go hit the airwaves 20 years ago and propelled her into the stratosphere. And it’s wall-to-wall fun. Even a couple of technical glitches couldn’t get the smile off Lavigne’s face. She looked like she was having the time of her life up there. And the fans were right along with her on the ride.

Not to let her talented band have all the fun, Lavigne donned a tiger-striped Stratocaster for “Complicated,” and took over the drum kit for a slightly truncated version of “Love Sux.” Lavigne was the front and centre throughout the show, but her band was as solid as they come. Cameron Hurley on guitar (this was his debut show with Lavigne), Matt Reilly on bass, David Immerman on guitar, Chris Reeve on drums, and Steve Ferlazzo, musical director and keyboardist for Lavigne’s band were simply amazing! Tight and ferocious, bringing all the hits to life.

Lavigne had a few high-profile collaborations on the new record. Including Machine Gun Kelly on “Bois Lie” as well as Blackbear on “Love It When You Hate Me.” When the band played those two songs, the video screen showed footage of MGK and Blackbear each performing their vocal parts synced with the live band. It was a cool effect. And arguably better than one of the band members “filling in” the vocal parts.

Lavigne had a special surprise for the fans when she brought out her newly engaged fiancée, songwriter/rapper Mod Sun. They performed his 2021 hit “Flames” which featured Lavigne on the record.

Stand-outs for this show were “Complicated,” “Girlfriend,” “What the Hell” and everything they played off Love Sux. That album is that good!

Avril Lavigne (w/ The Beaches) at Casino Rama (Barrie, ON) on April 30, 2022

After a short break Lavigne began the two-song encore with her video for “Head Above Water,” chronicling the time when she was battling Lyme disease where, according to Lavigne, she was going through periods where it was a significant struggle to keep her head up and keep going.

The show felt like it went quickly. Her songs are short but pack a punch, kind of like Lavigne. Giant black balloons were batted around the venue, streamers and confetti rained down from the rafters. Fans picked up the pieces as souvenirs as they left to swarm the merch table. It was a perfect show to get back to going to shows at Casino Rama.

If you missed the sold-out show, she’s touring across Canada and if you’re in the Toronto area you have a couple of more chances over the next few months to see her as well. Once solo and once opening for Machine Gun Kelly.

Opening the show was Toronto’s The Beaches. They were a last-minute addition to the show and the band played an energetic 45-minute set.

Avril Lavigne’s Setlist:

Act I
1. Cannonball
2. Bite Me
3. What The Hell
4. Here’s To Never Growing Up
5. Complicated
Act II
6. My Happy Ending
7. Smile
8. Losing Grip
9. Flames
10. Love it When You Hate Me
11. (Love Sux)
12. Girlfriend
13. Bois Lie
14. Sk8er Boi
15. Head Above Water
16. I’m With You