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Tuesday, September 27, 2005 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Concert Review

Hillary Duff connects with young audience at Puyallup Fair

Seattle Times staff reporter

To close the Puyallup Fair on a sunny Sunday afternoon, teen pop sensation Hilary Duff brought star power of her own — enough to pack the grandstand show.

The throng of 8- to 12-year-old girls and their moms formed a sea of pink and white T-shirts, sprinkled with matching bandanas and baseball caps.

Minutes before the queen of tweens strode onto the stage, the girls in the audience began chanting "Hi-la-ry" while stomping on the floors and pounding on the bleachers.

Their shrill yells exploded when Duff stormed onto the stage with "Wake Up," the first track from her "Most Wanted" album.

The fresh-faced "Lizzy McGuire" actor-turned-rock star sported a white tank top and camouflage-patterned capris, her brassy blond hair topped with a neat bow. More of a concert than a show, the singer never changed her outfit. Choreographed numbers and fancy staging were also absent.

The energy in the grandstand crescendoed when Duff sang the refrain "Let the rain fall down" in the catchy crowd favorite "Come Clean," then followed it up with "Anywhere But Here."

She bravely jumped atop several large amplifiers on 3-inch heels to belt out "Beat of My Heart," while reaching one of her outstretched hands up to the sky — a highlight of the uneven show.

Earlier, "Underneath This Smile" suffered when Duff's voice was drowned out by the heavy chords — the first of many songs plagued with unintelligible lyrics. When the music overpowered her performance again on "Cry," her adoring preteen fans, just happy to be basking in her presence, didn't mind. Instead, they showed their appreciation with a collective scream.

Her connection with the young audience resonated in the believe-in-yourself theme of "I Am," with lyrics like "I am special, I am beautiful, I am wonderful, and powerful, unstoppable."

Throughout the performance, Duff made sure that every outstretched hand in the first three rows got to slide through hers at least once.

Duff seemed to finally relax after she kicked off her shoes, nimbly traversing the stage barefooted to end her 80-minute concert with "So Yesterday" and "Girl Can Rock."

Teddy Geiger performed an unimpressive 30-minute set to open the show. Although he played both the keyboard and the guitar, he alternated between being breathless and shouting through the love songs.

Judy Chia Hui Hsu: 206-464-3315 or jhsu@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2005 The Seattle Times Company

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