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It’s not always an ugly story. Though you may wonder nonetheless.

All the talk of late about Britney Spears and an adulthood of control and exploitation, after teen years of something that looked a whole lot like that, sent Wind Back Wednesday firstly to a moment with La Britney last month.

But what about others in that world of teen idol/parental control/accountant-bait? For example, what about the then-16-year-old Ms Hilary Duff, who in 2004 (and again a year later, where inexplicably Radiohead featured in the pre-show entertainment) brought the E - for entertainment, naturally, what else were you thinking? – to Australia?

Join in for some fun that’s clean, loud and, like, totally.



Sydney Entertainment Centre, October 28, 2004

It’s glitter, sparkles and bare midriff. It’s high voice, lots of hair and too-much-sugar energy. And yes, that’s just the audience, that concentrated mass of the marketer’s dream segment, the poxily named tweenies.

These are the 8 to12-year-olds desperately yearning to be a teenager, wear teenager clothes, have teenager problems and, you know, like, be fully cool but who find themselves still uncomfortably close to being like, you know, urgh, kids, who could barely control themselves before the show started.

And when a blonde head popped up in the photographer’s pit they lost what little control there was, screaming hysterically even when it was clear that it was not the Clean Britney, the Wholesome Paris, the Bible-reading Kylie, Ms Hilary Duff.

Not surprisingly then, when Duff arrived on stage, those of us who thought having survived the volume excesses of the Prodigy and AC/DC had prepared us for everything lost a chunk of our remaining hearing, while dogs within a kilometre or two would have wondered who was calling them.

Mind you, the Prodigy and AC/DC weren’t a million miles away in spirit here - though Angus Young probably hasn’t had his belt collapse in the first song, necessitating an emergency exit to avoid a mini-Janet Jackson wardrobe malfunction.

In her utterly incongruous, but blithely so, Motorhead t-shirt and a double-length skirt over three quarter black leggings (declared “one of her worst outfits” by my 10-year-old fashion consultant), backed by a band of pretty but hard rocking youngsters rather than an expensive sequencer, Duff was at some pain to show herself as not another teen queen. Heck no (yes, heck no: there’ll be no swearing here thankyou, remember she’s the clean one, not the other one), apparently “this girl can rock”.

Ok, it’s Disney rock. Like an even less dangerous Avril Lavigne without the affected sullenness. But it sure ain’t bump’n’grind R&B or sugary pop. It’s slightly punky, slightly hair metal and in the encore slightly old school rock with a kid’s karaoke cover of My Generation.

And even when her thin and characterless voice was swallowed in the typical Entertainment Centre aural soup, it was being driven by a bouncy tweenie idol who wasn’t asking the audience to buy, sleep with or destroy anything. And that is no small mercy.

Was she singing live? Yes it appeared so. Was she singing without assistance, such as maybe a doubletracked pre-recorded vocal to thicken the sound? Hmm, that’s a good question.

But not one likely to be asked by the tweenies who screamed, sang, danced and after 65 minutes of show declared it all, like, awesome.


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