thu 13/06/2024

Lily Allen, Brighton Centre | reviews, news & interviews

Lily Allen, Brighton Centre

Lily Allen, Brighton Centre

The pithy princess of femme-pop on affable rather than thrilling form

Kitsch bitch, gunning for bigots

There is an odd moment about halfway through Lily Allen’s set. Clad in a shaggy white mini dress akin to a Puli dog’s coat, she announces the next song will divide the audience into those that love it and those that hate it. Her sweet voice then wraps itself around the soundtrack to last year’s John Lewis seasonal TV ad, her version of Keane’s “Somewhere Only We Know”.

I fall into the latter of her categories but I look around and a smattering of middle-aged heterosexual couples, who’d previously looked somewhat incongruous here, have grasped their partners and are doing gentle slow dances. It’s both sweet and bizarre, and begs the question, “Who comprises Lily Allen’s core fanbase in 2014?”

Judging from a two-thirds full Brighton Centre, her fans are lesbian couples of all ages, gaggles of young women aged 18 to 25, young gay male couples, and the aforementioned John Lewis contingent. Of the first group, there’s a great moment in “22” when Allen sings, “All she wants is a boyfriend,” and hearty female voices bellow, “Girlfriend!”. Allen is at a curious juncture in her career where she’s more famous as a celeb than for her music, but she’s also an outspoken modern feminist woman, making her a breath of fresh air in lollipop-headed Heat mag Hell. Her second album, 2009’s It’s Not Me, It’s You, is little short of a femme-pop, electro-pop masterpiece, but she then “retired”, found domestic happiness, and this year’s Sheezus, despite retaining Allen’s heart-on-sleeve lyrical snap, was musically disappointing.

In concert she makes the most of the Sheezus material, opening with the title track. Her stage is strewn with giant baby bottles whose bodies and teats glow various colours and she arrives onstage trim, girl-next-door sexy, her hair in a pink bob, wearing a leather-effect black bra top and green ankle-length petticoat skirt, her svelte mid-riff bare. On the downside: (a) the entire concert is cursed with low sound levels that make everything less propulsive, (b) some of her material is pretty nondescript, such as a bland funk jam around the ballad “Close Your Eyes”, and (c) Allen’s easy-going, playfully ditsy persona doesn’t always translate as anything more than "can’t be arsed". However there is also much to like.

Mainly what’s good is Lily Allen herself, from her genial cowboy dancing in “Not Fair” to her between-song rambles about everything from online bullying to not being judgemental about hedonism (the latter a preamble to the superb “Everyone’s At It”). Where other female singers only wheel out the “I’m a modern feminist” spiel when their sub-porno videos are criticised, Lily Allen walks it and talks it. For her encore, clad in pink and sliver glittery pyjamas, she spits out US R&B star The Weeknd’s “Or Nah”, with its rank lyrics about stretching pussies, throating dicks and making “bitches sweat”, then finishes with a fiery version of her own “Hard Out Here" ("for a bitch"), a livid satire on contemporary girl-pop (“Don’t you want to have somebody who objectifies you?/Have you thought about your butt? Who’s gonna tear it in two?” etc).

This concert is not Allen at her peak but, even so, her anti-bigotry anthem “Fuck You”, during which she brings a member of the audience onstage to sing, still rings with zeal, and “The Fear” contains armour-plated songwriting that’s indestructible. I hope Allen levels out the distracting excess kitsch in her music and grows a Pet Shop Boys-style following. Until then this will do, she’s still mightily appealing. Hell, I even bought a T-shirt.

Overleaf: Watch the video for "URL Badman"

The entire concert is cursed with low sound levels that make everything less propulsive


Editor Rating: 
Average: 3 (1 vote)

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