Scotiabank Place, Ottawa - October 17, 2011

Aedan Helmer, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 5:11 AM ET

OTTAWA - Success used to be measured in record sales and hit singles.

Now, apparently, you’re no one in the music business unless you’re peddling clothing lines and fragrances with your name and have your skimpily-dressed figure splashed across billboards.

So add marketing genius to Avril Lavigne’s list of critical plaudits.

It may seem a strange turn for Lavigne who, when she broke through a decade ago as a 17-year-old with the catchy Complicated, was billed as the anti-Britney pop-punk princess, a tag that had more to do with her generous pasting of mascara and steadfast refusal to bare her midriff than her bubblegum sound.

Because, clearly, Lavigne wouldn’t know punk if Johnny Rotten headbutted her in a mosh pit.

Still, it’s hard to be too critical of the small-town Napanee gal made good, who returned Monday night to the place where it all began for her when she won a chance to guest with Shania Twain in 1999 at the then-Corel Centre.

There were 20,000 in the crowd that night; fewer than half that number on Monday.

“Every time I come to this particular venue, it’s so special to me,” Lavigne gushed, sitting atop a grand piano recalling those 14-year-old butterflies.

“This venue was the first time I ever performed in front of so many people.

“This is the stage I walked onto, telling myself, ‘I have to do this, I want to do this, I love to sing.’ ”

Twelve years and 30 million in album sales later, that much is clear.

Lavigne opened her Black Star tour stop as she did her latest album, Goodbye Lullaby, with Black Star, which is also the name of her perfume (a clever bit of self-cross-promotion).

She followed that up with the single What the Hell, whose accompanying video may set a new standard for product placements, except that the featured products are largely her own.

“All my life I’ve been good, but now I’m thinking what the hell?” she sings, convincingly, in the refrain.

She had some trouble staying on pitch through the openers, but hit her stride on Sk8er Boi, the second smash single from her 2001 debut, Let Go.

Her voice rang out on the pretty Alice — written for Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland — and the ballad When You’re Gone.

In introducing that song, from 2007’s The Best Damn Thing, Lavigne bubbled over in sharing the “beautiful experience” of playing for fans so close to her hometown, with her mom, sister and old high school friends all in the crowd.

Lavigne took a powder midset to let her five-piece band take over on an instrumental medley before storming back out with the gleeful Girlfriend, with the crowd of teens and tweens whooping along with every “Hey! Hey!” chorus.

The tender I’m With You, also from her debut, showcased Lavigne’s grasp of the catchy chorus that would define her career, and gave the fans a chance to take over vocal duties on the singalong refrain.

She pulled off a smart cover of B.o.B’s Airplanes, and invited opening act Evan Taubenfeld to join her on stage for encores Best Years of Our Lives and Everybody Hurts, a standout from Goodbye Lullaby — before closing out the fan-friendly show with her name-making hit, Complicated.


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