Avril Lavigne sets Sounds of the City 2024 off to a stormer with a stunning opening night at Castlefield Bowl

Stuff your Glasto — we'll take her serenading the Bowl as a crowd of Mancs become a choir and people watch from their balconies any day.

Danny Jones Danny Jones - 4th July 2024

Sounds of the City returned to Manchester on Wednesday, courtesy of about as big an opening act as the festival has ever had before, with Avril Lavigne soaking in her first taste of Castlefield Bowl and proclaiming how much she loved the venue.

Us too, Avril – just not as much as it loved you.

That’s right, Canada’s pop-rock princess kicked off Sounds of the City 2024 with a Greatest Hits gig on the limited UK leg of her European tour just a couple of days after doing the ultimate outdoor gig at Glastonbury – which looked and sounded amazing, by the way.

You could tell how pumped she was to be bringing some of that ‘rock out under rainy British skies’ energy to Manchester’s iconic amphitheatre but, in one of those most magical moments that sometimes happens at festivals, the clouds broke and we got a stunning nostalgic sunset singalong.

Credit: The Manc Audio

The weather shifted just moments after fellow Canadian pop-punk veterans Simple Plan took to the stage as main supports just like they have throughout her tour, with six countries and nearly 30 more gigs to go, but it didn’t look like they were already several shows deep and well into their 40s.


It can be a tough ask getting a crowd going before a headliner sometimes, but these lot didn’t struggle at all and that’s why they’re still going all these years later.

Be it making ‘it’s not a phase, mom’ jokes, inviting a bunch of blokes dressed in Scooby Doo onesies on stage as they played the classic cartoon’s theme song (yes, they sing that one), giant beach balls, playing classics like ‘I’m Just A Kid’ or a few quick covers, they very much understood the assignment.


After getting the crowd to ‘Jump’ as they would at any other rock concert, the mood was just right for the main event and let’s just say a lot of current and ex-emos, moshers and noughties kids alike were very happy when ageless Avril Lavigne walked out in Castlefield Bowl.

Well, that’s not entirely accurate: after some suspense-building graphics and lots of anticipant screaming, she burst onto the stage – quite literally – with one of her first big hits, ‘Girlfriend’, as Manchester welcomed her back after a very long time and she set off a sea of streamers into the air.

An early confetti cannon is always a sign of a good gig and it will surprise absolutely no one to hear that Avril Lavigne still sounds absolutely sensational, not to mention that the acoustics of the Bowl proved perfect for letting her voice travel across Castlefield and beyond.


It’s also worth mentioning that even if you’re just a casual fan or think you ‘only know the hits’, as this latest album release and series of shows has proved, the girl has a lot more hits than you even think.

Song after song we found ourselves knowing the words and chants, which only increased the nostalgia factor even more as we watched countless fans of all ages dancing their heads off and singing at the top of their lungs.

That’s what it’s all about.

The 39-year-old (yes, we know she still looks like she’s in her 20s, don’t rub it in) also had a really charming manner when it came to interacting with the crowd; it may have been a little bit less bantery than her support act but you could tell she was rolling back the years just as much as we were.

Looking back on more than two decades of making music, she was taking it all in: the venue, the people with pink hair and those wearing official Avril uniforms (neckties and spike bracelets), not to mention the drinkers as she sprayed a bottle of champagne into the front row.


She even welcomed Simple Plan back on stage for a duet and also used the opportunity to invite some die-hard fans and little kids whose parents are clearly passing their impeccable music taste on to their little’uns to join them, taking photos, signing skateboards to sing the chorus of ‘Addicted’.

Dream come true stuff and a moment in which we suddenly remembered she’s no longer the Avril Lavigne that burst onto the scene and the biggest thing on MTV when she was just a teenager – she’s a mum these days and all her fans have grown up with her.

We love that feeling when everything feels like it’s come full circle and we can all pretend we’re ‘just a kid’, as her openers so aptly put it.

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Once again, we don’t think we need to convince you that classics like ‘Sk8er Boi’ and ‘Complicated’ were as good as you’d hope they’d be, perhaps even better, and we can now tick seeing Avril Lavigne live in Manchester off the bucket list.

The whole Sounds of the City lineup for 2024 is great and there’s lots of variety in genre too, which is always a bonus, but we have to say that the throwback feeling of this particular gig was wonderful and we can’t think of many better ways to kick off a festival.


Now watch as queen Avril Lavigne turned Castlefield Bowl into a choir for her ultimate ballad, ‘I’m With You’, in a perfect choice of closing song.

Is there any more beautiful a sound than a sea full of Mancs singing in harmony? Not a chance.

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Featured Images — The Manc Group