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- Somerset House, London »
- Lily Allen »
Two songs in and the façade’s splintered as the stilettos are cast aside: “Now you photographers can see my stumpy little legs,” says our bubbly protagonist for this evening’s pop entertainment, giggling to herself and questioning whether or not to crack open another can of cider. Nah, leave it a few more songs – best to wait ‘til you’ve already bungled a few lines before openly swigging on stage.
Lily Allen is pleased as punch (and, just maybe, a bit piddled on it) to be home. Here, there are friendly faces – her brother, Alfie, runs on for an embrace during… well, you work it out – and it’s clear that the chart-topping kitchen-sink story-teller, she who has paved the way for a half-dozen other female tell-it-like-it-is sorts to swell forth from the capital’s strum ‘n’ beat underground, feels relieved to be temporarily ‘off’ the road, if only because this pit stop is so very familiar. Although she’s all smiles – again, how very appropriate – Allen’s in feisty form as she dedicates an early offering to “bastard bank managers and mortgage lenders… and anyone else who makes your life shit”, acutely aware that her audience for the night most certainly features a hefty handful of said demographic. Occasionally her potty mouth ways verge on the uncouth and uncomfortable, though – there are lots of schoolchildren in this evening, up on daddy’s shoulders, mouthing along to every other “fuck”.
‘LDN’ – the title that spawned a scene, or as good as – is delivered first, Allen doing her best to bounce about the place prior to chucking her shoes to the side. It sets a fine tone for what follows: this is, at its core, a party, and only the bitterest of observers can be seen resisting the urge to tap at least a couple of toes along to a set made up almost entirely of cuts from Allen’s sole album to date, Alright, Still. ‘Friend Of Mine’ is introduced as a song about a school bully who’s now a crack addict, drawing cheers from the assembled many. “No, no!” protests Allen to deaf ears. “Don’t cheer crack. Crack is bad!” The kids, they care not from their vantage points, bopping above adult brains equally able to filter the on-the-bone aspects of Ms Allen’s work from the summertime fun of her hit singles. The girl’s been through some shit, true, but ‘Smile’ is still a ‘choon’.
It’s a delightful take on ‘Littlest Things’, though, that is the set’s standout, beginning its airing somewhere between ‘Karma Police’ (seriously) and the morose incidental music from the old Transformers cartoon. Her best single to date, the song is rendered tenderly enough to allow the tiniest of lumps to form in the throats of anyone who’s been through its documented trials themselves. So that’s everyone, then.
Her version of Kaiser Chiefs’ ‘Oh My God’, albeit sans Mark Ronson, forms part of the encore, and another less-expected cover is dispatched in the guise of The Specials’ ‘Gangsters’, featuring Lynval Golding himself. It’s a surprising success, which can’t be said about Allen’s take on ‘Heart Of Glass’. Perfunctory, yes, but nothing like the highlight it could have been. Another gripe: Allen’s preoccupation with her figure and looks. ‘Cheryl Tweedy’ is a b-side that really doesn’t need dredging up from the past, and its message is one that the children in the crowd would be well advised to turn a blind eye to, especially when the person singing about how she wishes she looked so much better actually, y’know, is a bit of a looker.
And anyway, stumpy little legs don’t matter a damn when you’ve clearly talent to burn. The hope this writer has now is that Lily Allen doesn’t inadvertently burn out, due to a strenuous summer of festival touring, ahead of what could quite obviously be a career-defining second album. Forget the stick insects tossing insults and the coattail-riding flash-in-the-pans foreseeing their own foundational failings – once Allen realises she’s The Real Deal, she can really push things forward.
_ Photograph by Keven Law, taken from flickr.com - click HERE for profile link/more photographs._
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