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Lily Allen At Highline Ballroom, Thursday, May 15th, 2014, Reviewed

Lily Allen Versus The Balcony

Lily Allen Versus The Balcony

Lily picked a fight with us in the balcony of the Highline Ballroom, complaining because we won’t stand up, claiming we are in the expensive section, returning to it as though the very sight of people sitting was annoying her, and finally dismissing us as male misogynist bloggers.

Actually, they were her VIP list (not me, I was behind em) and her friends who wouldn’t shut up, and wouldn’t rise to the occasion even for the encore. As for misogynistic bloggers, surely she means misanthropic -we are equal opportunity haters and anyway, I for one can’t hate on Lily Allen even when she is being silly and interfering with her gig. At the end of the concert, she stares us down again and claims all the action was at the front of the stage and we missed out.

Not really.

Lily’s 75 minute set was just fine. The tempo off a touch, the costume changes, four in all and I’d have preferred it if she’d remained in her metallic blue jump suit all night,  a little too plentiful, around the midway the audience energy flagged a little even if Lily’s didn’t,  but that’s nitpicking for the misogynistic exercise. I caught Lily when she played T5 back in 2008, just before she took a break for marriage and children, and the last time she played New York, and she was quite as good Tuesday night.

The mouthy internet sensation who jumped the ranks as a pop Amy Winehouse kid sister myspace phenom in 2002, before dropping out in 2008, is back to place herself on a trajectory of pop stardom that includes Gaga and Katy Perry. But she underestimates herself. The true Lily is part of musical trajectory that includes Vera Lynn, Cilla Black and Tracy Ullman and Kirsty MacColl, and continues with lesser lights like Eliza Doolittle. Her gifts are difficult to overstate: a superb songwriter, melody maker and lyricist who keeps a very skeptical eye on pop culture and romance. And she presents it with wit and beauty on stage.

Lily’s  new album, Sheezus, is very good and in the Billboard 200 finds her at # 12(aka 15K units shifted if she’s lucky but it suggests her streaming numbers are excellent Stateside, “Hard Out Here” is at 18 Million streams on Spotify) . She opened the set with the wonderful sneer of the title track and continued with the poorly judged single “Hard Out Here”, before fan favorite “Everyone’s At It”. In the relatively small confines of “Highline Ballroom” (she is playing the dreaded Terminal 5 this fall), she seems a little cramped on stage though when she dances, she dances very well. With a small backing band, piano (“electronic keyboards”) , and guitar , bass and drums, she signed her album (“I’m not signing a ticket”), funned Miley Cyrus’s mother, shouted out her booking agent and photographer the legendary  Bob Gruen. Gruen took pictures of an eleven year old Lily singing with her Godfather Joe Strummer at the Hammersmith Odeon and it was really touching. She kept the intimacy of an intimate gig. She didn’t perform “Everything’s Just Wonderful”.

Whatever you might thing about Lily’s wiseass persona, her smarts and friendliness makes for a pleasant concert and the two best songs off the show are both full on love songs and paeans to family life. None of us missed “As Long As I Got You” -the zydeco melody, Cajun beauty on the newbie, it was too good to be dismissed  Sung directly after the depressive life and love are over at “22” on Thursday night it worked as a correlative to a mistake once sung. “Life For Me” I did miss on Sheezus, but it was a glorious Caribbean swing of a song and just joyful even with its doubts.

Lily has gone on the record as not being entirely thrilled with Sheezus, but really, enough of this fucking English self-deprecation stuff -she’s not Chris Martin. What is better? Prism? Lily has made three albums the equal of You Broke My Heart In 17 Places, what more do we want? Well, I’d rather not be called a misogynist but otherwise it is great to have Allen back.

Grade: B+


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