By Chris Willman
Updated April 23, 2004 at 04:00 AM EDT

In some ways, it’s a typical L.A. gig. I’m standing in dried vomit while the guy to my left keeps asking his companion ”Are you sure you’re not going to throw up anymore?” To my right is Juliette Lewis. This ain’t the Viper Room, however, but the JC Penney Court at the Glendale Galleria; the girl swearing she’s done upchucking is 2 years old, and I’ll soon find myself again brushing elbows with Lewis upstairs at Sbarro. Welcome to Avril Lavigne’s mall tour, which is taking the 19-year-old superstar to 21 of America’s finest commercial atria. Scoff at the rock-stifling ambiance if you will, but few here — least of all Lavigne — are old enough to harbor any nagging Tiffany associations. And honestly, there aren’t many concerts that wouldn’t benefit from being free, less than a half-hour long, and Orange Julius-adjacent.

Though Glendale is within spitting distance of the Eagle Rock mall where Lavigne shot her ”Complicated” video, no shoe displays will be upended or security guards molested during this six-song acoustic set. Not that perching on a stool means she’s unduly matured. The four cuts she and guitarist Evan Taubenfeld preview from Under My Skin, her supposedly heavier May 25 release, are all likably bitter breakup tunes, expressed in prosaic but real-to-teen-life terms — like her just-say-bug-off abstinence anthem and single, ”Don’t Tell Me.” Even mallgoers outside the target (if not Target) demo are impressed with her ability to hit the notes in this zombie-hootenanny setting. But Lavigne still has the same problem forging a connection with a live audience that she did on her first tour, perfunctorily rushing through one-sentence song intros before beating a hasty retreat. Maybe she’s got another galleria to get to?