By Tankboy in Arts & Entertainment on Oct 17, 2006 2:51PM
We were worried that last night’s Lily Allen show would be one of those dreadful affairs bloated with hipster ennui and slimy label types trying to sell the latest British import to various radio stations and corporate music buyers. When we walked into Double Door, we were greeted with some faceless, booty-thump DJ spinning a disappointing blend of lame beats, so our hopes for a shiny, fun-filled evening looked in danger of deflating.
Then Domino took the stage. We were initially put off by singer Domino Kirke's combo of Gwen Stefani vocal tics coupled with a mini-dress complete with plunging neckline, since both of these tactics tend to point towards a pop stereotype best avoided. However, her infectious enthusiasm was hard to fend off, and her Caribbean-flavored pop was harmless enough, so we actually found ourselves happily accepting one of her demos when she pressed it into our hand at the end of her set.
Mark Ronson followed, opening with a reworking of his own cover of Radiohead’s “Just” and then steamrolling into a fun and inventive set that bopped from rock, to hip-hop, to Madness, and back. It was just the thing the crowd, which by this point was largely hipster-free and chomping at the bit for the main attraction, needed to amp up the gleeful anticipation.
And then Lily Allen hit the stage.
Backed by a keyboardist/DJ, bassist, and a full horn section, Ms. Allen was a bit stiff at the opening, with nervous 20-something energy blocking her easy sway, but the crowd’s enthusiasm soon melted her inhibition and projected the show beyond simple showcase into joyful celebration. Ms. Allen obviously had read some off the criticism of earlier stops on this U.S. tour, and she pointed out that she had expanded her set list, even though the band hadn’t had much time to practice the new material. This was verified when we spied her set list with a couple hastily added Sharpie-penned selections appended to it.
Ms. Allen’s worries were unfounded, as her backing players were tight and enthusiastic about the whole affair. Special kudos are owed here to her bassist, since it was his fluid rhythm that held the whole thing together with a nonchalant ease that belied his importance.
Ms. Allen’s performance was just the sort of thing we were hoping to see. The exuberant hip-pop diva’s voice was in terrific shape, and her charisma was more than enough to keep all eyes, and attention spans, on her. The surprise of the evening was the encore closing (though is it really an encore if the artist says, “This is where we’d leave the stage and you would cheer for us to come back, but we’re having so much fun I don’t want to waste your time with that”) “Alfie.” On album we have tended to overlook this tune, but live it turned into a rousing crowd-pleasing sing-a-long.
While we are worried that the buzz will be gone by the time Ms. Allen’s Stateside label finally gets around to releasing her debut, which came out with perfect timing last summer in Europe, we are hopeful that it won’t cause this songstress to be tossed aside as yet another failed British import. Her music isn’t deeply thoughtful, but it is deeply satisfying and deserves to be heard blasting out of the car stereos of America under a bright summer sun.
Lily Allen photo shot at a UK club date by Music Like Dirt