Published: Monday, May 4, 2009
Updated: Thursday, May 7, 2009 17:05
Lily Allen at the British Fashion Awards
"Can you see my nipples?" asks a merry, scantily-clad Lily Allen.
She is a funny girl. Allen first made us "Smile" back in 2006 with her debut album Alright, Still, with her sassy quirks and anti-chump boyfriend antics. The UK sensation came back full circle to New York City's illustrious Roseland Ballroom once again after performing there in 2007, only this time she brought a new attitude and a new album, appropriately titled It's Not Me, it's You. The 24-year-old had a whirlwind year; after she braved a miscarriage in January 2008, she and Chemical Brothers' Ed Simons broke up. She, like every other famous 20-something, found herself under the scrutiny of pop culture's microscope answering questions on her weight gain…and then loss.
Clearly out from the depths of celebrity despair, Allen was all smiles at her sold out April 20th show. Making a flimsy faux pas, she brought Natalie Portman's Shaved Head on board for support, a terrible knock-off of The Ting Tings. The five-piece band was clearly encouraged too much by their parents—who let them out of the garage? The music was as cheesy and reminiscent of the 80s as the keyboardist's side ponytail, but they jammed out and had a good time.
It was half-past nine when the lights went down and the only vision behind a sheer white curtain was Lily Allen's dancing silhouette. "She's gonna be good!" said an eager concertgoer. The curtain rose and to my delight, Allen had taken a cue from the playbook of Rihanna, sporting an only-really-hot-girls-can-wear-it cropped bob. "Everyone's At It," served as a dual opener, at the show and on the new album–exhibit A in the case of how Allen makes sensible lyrics and a fun futuristic beat work together. The new tune "Never Gonna Happen," shatters the dreams of her pursuers as she croons, "How on earth can I be any more obvious?"
Allen, who has graduated from frilly dresses and sneakers to pretty blouses and skin tight leggings, makes the show all about the new record. Though she peppered in oldies "Everything's Just Wonderful," "LDN" and "Oh My God," an under praised and publicized track produced by Mark Ronson.
"Back to the Start," what fans are probably looking at as the next single off "It's Not Me…" offers a dance-y beat that will give lovers of Lady Gaga's "Just Dance" a less invasive alternative. Allen uses it as apology/therapy outlet, "Believe me when I say that I cannot apologize enough/When all you ever wanted from me was a token of my love/And if it's not too late/Could you please find it deep within your heart/To try and go back go back to the start."
She chain smokes throughout, making it hard to see how such a baby doll voice comes out of those pipes she's so carelessly contaminating. "Chinese," an enchanting, buttered-popcorn ballad, chronicles her time on the road missing her Mum and wanting to simply "get Chinese and watch TV." Allen has something going for her that very few females in the vivacious world that is pop actually have…the girl can sing! Though her vocals are nothing intricate or intense, she does not put herself up to anything she cannot handle live (ahem, Britney Spears.)
Each twinkle of a star note sounded precious and pretty, mimicking the album tracks perfectly—only the band offered an extra dash of live excitement that you simply cannot find on a record. "He Wasn't There," channels a Baby Jane beat from the 20s and fun summer toots as Allen sings about her father not being around as much as she wanted as a child. "He's not here tonight," she told the crowd. "So feel free to laugh at him." She sang, "I'm so pleased I never gave up on him…everyone said you have to give him some time and I ‘m glad that I gave it to him cuz now everything's fine." Just what the world needs…another twenty-something girl with father issues.
Following suit with a geographically-themed contest, she brought two male fans up on stage to partake in a cheesecake eating contest. Junior's Cheesecake, that is (she did the same in Philadelphia with cheese steaks). Though the skinny guy took the cake (no pun intended), the chubby guy scored a self-taken picture with Allen before they both exited the stage. "It's Not Fair" (aka "Not Big Part 2") follows the savage contest, as well as "F*ck You," the comedic never-gonna-get-released song that only fans at live shows can enjoy.
Impotence and irony, once again, are the themes of her album and show. She finished up with what started it all, "Smile," and what's starting it all up again, "The Fear," the first single off the new album, full of cosmic complaints of show biz. She came back for an encore, only this time she's dipping into cover territory, as she surprised fans with Britney Spears' "Womanizer," putting a British spin in an all-American hit.
Final say? Lily Allen had us worried for a minute there…photos of her in tears on her MySpace and too many comparisons to Amy Winehouse left fans out in the cold. But she promised…and delivered. The show was fun, flirty and titillating. We all knew the word could be used in reference to more than just nipples!
Download this: "Back to the Start" off It's Not Me, It's You.