The most unique quality about most modern female pop stars is their ability to thrust girl power slap bang onto society, with a sassy, carefree attitude that has inspired young girls everywhere to be who they want, and not be oppressed by the male gender. However, it has to be said that a number of these ‘feisty females’ are predominantly from the US. Most notably, there have been the likes of Beyoncé, Rihanna and Pink flying the American flag, but what about right here in the UK? Sure, I suppose you could include Jessie J in the list of strong independent women, but for me, there is one Brit who has always stood at the forefront of that list since she stormed the UK charts in 2006.
Lily Rose Allen, daughter of established actor Keith Allen, first graced the music world with her presence and number one first single’Smile’, followed by a string of successful hits and albums to boot. From then on she has received critical acclaim for her music, several award nominations and a wide-spread fanbase, so it was a bit of a shock to most when she decided to halt her career back in 2009 in favour of running a boutique with her sister. After a few years away, happily married with two children, Allen finally came out of hiding last year to announce her upcoming third studio album. One year later, she has now come back into the pop fold with a vengeance, with another number one single, two consecutive top ten hits and tours all across the globe.
Last Thursday, Allen delighted Brighton fans by playing to a packed crowd at the Brighton Centre, and overall she did not disappoint. What makes Lily Allen special compared to a lot of female singers in her generation is that she is able to make meaningful and dark lyrics sound relatively cheerful with her individual style. Seeing her perform these songs live is an even greater experience, as the intensity of her voice is magnified to an increasing velocity and engulfs the audience like a sweet smelling aroma.
Kicking off the show with the titular single from her latest album ‘Sheezus’, Allen sings about her return to the music game, namedropping a few of the current female players along the way. The track is very much in the spirit of what Allen is all about, spunky and unabashed, as she boldly chirps “Gimme that crown bitch, I wanna be Sheezus”! The title is a homage to Kanye West’s most recent album ’Yeezus’, in which the rapper proclaims himself as a god. Following her opening number, Allen proceeded with a couple of classics, ‘Not Fair’ and ‘LDN’, all the while being surrounded by several giant glowing milk bottles that seemed to change colour during each song.
Once Allen had familiarised her audience with some of her renowned hits, she went on to perform a few tracks from ‘Sheezus’. The problem seemed to lie that, though ‘Sheezus’ is undeniably a good album, it does fall slightly short compared to her previous works, and maybe of a couple of the tracks she decided to perform might have been the wrong choice in comparison to others which would have sounded much better live. While the majority of these songs were well sung and clearly displayed passion from Allen’s words, it was becoming clear that the audience were still craving something a bit more old school.
At this point, it could be safe to say that Allen may have noticed, because she addressed the crowd with “You lot look kind of grumpy, I think you need to SMILE”. A great roar of approval was met from the onlookers as they began to chant and sing in mass to what is arguably Allen’s most famous hit, of course, this could have been her plan all along Allen continued to mix it up by belting out old tunes and new, with some of them receiving a louder response than others. It was especially a joy to hear the underrated ‘Who’d ‘ve Known’ brought to life, as well as hearing the cleverly penned ‘URL Badman’.
Seeing her audience fired up with excitement, Allen skipped along the stage as pursued her path along the realms of familiarity, with fans chanting along to ‘22’ and ‘Littlest Things’. By the time she had reached ‘The Fear’, quite possibly her best song, she had the crowd eating out the palm of her hand. In fact I wouldn’t have been surprised if she had kicked back, had a coffee break and allowed her fans to sing the whole tune, not out of laziness, but because they were hanging on to her every word. With her hour and a half set approaching toward the end, Allen slowed it down with her beautiful cover of Keane’s ‘Somewhere Only We Know’, showcasing the fact that beneath her bravado and the controversy that often comes with it, she does indeed have a decent set of pipes.
On her official last song, the brilliantly titled ‘Fuck You’, Allen selected a young girl from the crowd, and invited her on stage to sing along, which the girl willingly obliged, and fair play to her, she really gave it a go. Once she had exited the stage, she clearly had the crowd right where she wanted them, as they began to chant “Lily! Lily! Lily!” until she reappeared on stage screaming “Do you want more?” to which the crowd responded with a deafening cheer. After performing a couple more songs, Allen rounded off the show with ‘Hard out Here’, her official leading track from ‘Sheezus’. What was slightly disappointing was the absence of ‘Air Balloon’, which is one of her most popular recent songs, clearly some of her fans were expecting to hear it, as they were singing parts of it while waiting for her to return for an encore.
In general, Lily Allen put on a great show; she displayed a good knowledge of how to please a crowd, and well as introducing new life to her already vast repertoire of catchy, quirky songs. Returning back to music after a few years could spell danger for some pop stars, but not in Allen’s case. She has shown that in her absence, a great hole in British pop music has been left that has been hard to fill. Now she has made a welcome comeback to where she belongs, let’s hope she continues to fly the flag for sassy Brits everywhere.