LIVE: Lily Allen @ Albert Hall
She’s the comeback kid who’s won the heart of a (liberal) nation. Lily Allen has self-admitted that she’s been to the lowest of lows and the highest of highs (literally). She’s an icon, with a career behind – and ahead – that stands on its own. Lily’s fourth studio album ‘No Shame’ was out earlier in 2018, followed later by the release of her tell-all autobiography ‘My Thoughts Exactly’. Haven’t got a copy yet? Written by the woman herself, it’s a frank and open book that washes away any thoughts that the reader may have had, that Lily Allen had been swallowed by the false celebrity culture.
With the success of both book and album, Allen’s dedicated fans swamped upon the announcement of her December 2018 UK tour. Tickets were snapped up early on and eager fans awaited the date they’d catch the iconic British singer. Manchester’s Albert Hall made for a prime location in the North of the country, which sold-out months ahead of the Sunday evening set.
As the songstress takes to the stage, a fan screams that it’s her birthday. To which Lily gleefully responds by encouraging the room to sing ‘Happy Birthday’ to the delighted audience member. After a quick “I hope for your sake that you filmed that”, she opens with the first track from ‘No Shame’ which follows the lines of 2009’s ‘Fuck You’ in that it’s a finger-poke at her critics. The track, ‘Come On Then’ calls out her haters and touches on topics she mentions in her book: that she often feels scrutinised by the media and disparagers. Lyrics like “I’m a bad mother/I’m a bad wife” points out that some tabloid publications have made attempts to defame Lily by making clickbait headlines from supposed atrocities she’s committed, creating a false image of her for viewers who simply skim headlines.
Followed up by ‘Waste’ (which features Lady Chann on the album, but the singer isn’t a guest for the live show) which relates to those who have double-crossed her in the past. Be it, ex-friends/lovers/collaborators, the path to fame often seems to see people cross the line of trust, and divulge their celebrity story to the media if it results in a shiny penny.
In amongst tracks from the new record, Lily Allen plays classics that established her fame, including the unforgettable ‘LDN’ and ‘Smile’. The singer is clearly not planning on forgetting her roots any time soon, as shown by the candid words in ‘My Thoughts Exactly’ and the whole reason she’s produced it – to set the record straight.
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As often is, songwriters share tracks that are almost a story-telling of their own lives; sharing their own antics, experiences, and vices. Lily is no different. ‘No Shame’ harmoniously works hand-in-hand with her autobiography, soundtracking different chapters of her life / the book. For the finale, Allen speaks to her crowd: “there’s something in the air…” and mentions the current political climate, hostility, and judgment that seems to be common these days. Before closing with the time-honored favourite ‘Fuck You’. It’s a track that calls out racism, misogyny, and sexism along to a quirky, care-free pop backdrop that echoes the words: “…there’s a hole where your soul should be/You’re losing control a bit/And it’s really distasteful.”
The live set isn’t all middle fingers and ‘screw the patriarchy’ angst, it humanizes Lily Allen as a grounded figure. Part way through the set, a member of the audience seemingly faints, at which point Allen pauses the show and waits whilst medical staff access the situation. It’s an act of kindness that she could have overlooked by simply continuing and assuming that crews were on-hand, but she duly chose not to ignore.
Tucked in amongst the setlist is a cover of Lykke Li‘s ‘deep end’ from her 2018 album ‘so sexy so sad’. It’s a hit which traces similar themes yielded by Lily, it presents us with a double entendre; going “off the deep end” is a figure of speech that relates to irrationality, especially when referring to strong emotions such as infatuation and romantic lust for others.
There’s also a promise of more to come from the melodist. On this tour, Allen shares a new track – “which might end up on an album or whatever it is people are doing these days” – ‘Party Line’ that speaks of the relatable topic of ‘beer-fear’ or ‘hangxiety’. It’s that quaking feeling that you tipped too far over the edge the night before, said or did things you never meant to see day (or night) light. Currently unreleased, the song discusses that feeling of “crossing the party line” and that it’s a persistent issue – once you get into the habit of “losing it”, the problem is often recurrent. With all cards now laid on the table and the promise of new endeavors in the works, her fanbase befittingly awaits the next chapter from Lily Allen.