ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED ON SEPT. 10, 2004
By Steve Newton
The rain was pelting down Vancouver-style as the hordes of kiddies (and their accompanying parents) descended on the sold-out Coliseum last Friday. But it was going to take more than soaking-wet ponytails and soggy Lizzy McGuire runners to dampen the spirits of these hard-core Hilary Duff fans, who appeared to be mostly between the ages of five and 10. They were intent on battling the back-to-school blues by witnessing the squeaky-clean teenage singer-actor in the flesh.
All over town, Easy-Bake Ovens would stay cool and dark for the remainder of the night.
By the time Tess and I wrung ourselves out and took our seats, the opening act, Duff’s little sister Haylie, had already got the munchkin masses riled up with her formulaic pop sound and enthusiastic stage presence.
“I need you guys to scream as loud as you can for my band!” she proclaimed, and the response was a shrill racket, though nothing compared to the cacophony that erupted seconds later when she asked them to scream even louder for Hilary. It was six-year-old Tessie’s first big concert, but she seemed only slightly ruffled by the earsplitting noise.
It reminded me of the time I made the awful mistake of attending a Duran Duran show at this very venue 20 years ago.
After Haylie Duff left the stage, there was much flogging of her superstar sister’s latest products on a video screen, but since Tess already has all those CDs and DVDs, she requested instead one of the green glow-sticks the kids around her had been waving.
Scooping out some cash from beneath the Jelly Belly stash in her pink flowered purse, I dutifully set off to find the must-have item. It didn’t take long, ’cause right at the top of the stairs was a busy vendor hawking the little plastic tubes for eight bucks apiece.
At that inflated price, the glow stick was going to seriously cut into Tess’s Hilary Duff T-shirt fund, but I wasn’t going back empty-handed.
As we sat there looking at her new prize and waiting for the main attraction to appear, my journalistic tendencies kicked in, and I asked Tess what she liked best about the warm-up act. “I don’t really know!” she replied in a bit of a huff, which actually seemed like a pretty well-thought-out answer. As we gazed out at all the other green and blue glow sticks filling the old hockey rink, Tess estimated that there were a million people in the crowd.
In actuality it was closer to 13,000.
But it sure sounded like a million when Hilary came strutting out to the energetic pop-metal strains of “Girl Can Rock”, from the soundtrack to her latest film, A Cinderella Story. Her musical approach was a little gutsier than that of her sister and benefited greatly from the powerhouse drumming of Shauney Baby.
While her foxy minx looks and Disney child-star aura often overshadow Duff’s vocal abilities, she proved herself a capable crooner, especially on the catchy hit “Come Clean” and “Fly”, a power ballad from her upcoming self-titled CD. Of course, it didn’t hurt having identical triplets Abbey, Baili, and Rachel Sibucao adding full-bore backing vocals on every song.
At one point, when Duff braved the clamouring kids to sit on the edge of the stage, two guys who looked to be in their early 20s got up from their floor seats, pulled their shirts off, and started waving them over their heads, trying to get her attention. If the singer noticed their antics she didn’t let on, but a security guy said something to the gyrating duo and they cheerfully curtailed the unwanted Chippendales audition.
For the first of two encores, Haylie and Hilary joined forces on the Go-Go’s’ “Our Lips Are Sealed”, then the show closed (way past bedtime) with a wonky version of the Who’s “My Generation”. It was nice of the Duffster to offer something familiar to all the chaperoning parents, but the sentiment didn’t quite ring true when she delivered the line “Hope I die before I get old.”