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MUSIC REVIEW

Cabrera charms tweens, and their parents

The line for the sold-out Ryan Cabrera show at Avalon on Sunday stretched down Lansdowne Street at 5:45 p.m., full of young girls with homemade signs and parental supervision. The first ones in line said they had been waiting since 7 a.m.

The tween-dominated crowd kept up its enthusiasm as the spiky-haired Cabrera -- the on-again, off-again boyfriend of Ashlee Simpson -- kicked his set off with his album-opener "Let's Take Our Time" to a chorus of shrieking fans.

Cabrera, 22, obliged his audience with familiar tunes from his full-length debut, "Take It All Away," which he translated almost directly from the album, rarely deviating from the established styles. But when he bantered with the crowd between songs, his nervous charm further won them over.

Despite saying he was feeling under the weather, Cabrera commanded the stage through what he said would be his next single, "40 Kinds of Sadness," as well as two new tracks, "Last Night" and "With You Gone." The new material stayed true to Cabrera's established PG-rated pop-rock formula, with catchy choruses and the potential to appear on the soundtrack of a WB teen drama.

Even parents were given a treat when Cabrera broke into a cover of Paula Abdul's "Straight Up" during a breakdown in his track "Echo Park," and again when he took on Paul Simon's "You Can Call Me Al."

However, it was his hit single "On the Way Down" that drove the crowd into a frenzy and had the packed house singing every word. Cabrera finished out the song playing drums like an overzealous 13-year-old, and the final cymbal crashed exactly one hour after the start of his set.

"True," a standard pop ballad of longing, was an easy choice for an encore, and the crowd ate up every word, especially when Cabrera played the role of teen heartthrob perfectly by dedicating it to everyone in the crowd. The fans would have had their lighters raised if they'd been old enough to have them.

Opener Kyle Riabko, a Canadian cross between Cabrera and Dave Matthews, was impressive with his guitar stylings and funk-folk acoustic rock. Though he struggled through the falsetto on Michael Jackson's "Thriller," he won over the Cabrera-crazed crowd with his boyish good looks and confident strut.

Also on the bill was Aslyn, pop-rock's answer to Tori Amos. But no matter how hard she banged on the piano, her voice lacked raw intensity. Her generic style seemed as if it would be more at home in a "Disney on Ice" production.

Ryan Cabrera
With Aslyn and Kyle Riabko
At: Avalon, Sunday night

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