Lily Allen: Roundhouse, London

Singer shares her thoughts exactly in brave confessional

EYEBROWS WERE raised earlier this year when Lily Allen’s latest album, No Shame, was nominated for the Mercury Prize but it fully deserved its place on the list.

A warts-and-all account of the break-up of her marriage, it combined the usual whip-smart lyrics with an expanded musical palette that took in electropop, dancehall and Afrobeat.

As if said album wasn’t confessional enough, Allen also recently published her memoirs, My Thoughts Exactly, a candid and amusing account of her tumultuous 33 years on planet earth.

And so the Roundhouse last night was no place for prudes. “Lily, Lily, Lily f***ing Allen”, chanted the crowd as she emerged to the throbbing electropop of Come On Then.

The minimal stage setup — she was accompanied only by a keyboardist and a bassist — drew further attention to the best part of Allen’s music: the lyrics. ‘Pushing Up The Daisies’ was a 21st century answer to The Beatles’ ‘When I’m 64’, Allen asked if she’d still be needed “When we’re just a strain on the NHS… When I’m a Daily Mail–reading know-what’s-best”.

Compared with the Florences of this world, Allen is a limited singer, but what her voice lacks in power it makes up for in personality. ‘Knock ‘Em Out’ was a Streets-style dismantling of an unwanted admirer, while her small voice further added to the vulnerability of break-up numbers such as ‘Apples’.

While the biggest reaction was saved for the old favourites — one feared for the Roundhouse’s foundations on ‘It’s Not Fair’, such was the level of the pogoing — there’s a sense that the new songs mean more.

Dark, weighty piano ballads such as ‘Family Man’ were greeted with wild applause and sang back at her with gusto. Occasionally, Allen is guilty of over-sharing. While it’s brave of her to share with us the shortcomings of her marriage, I’m not sure if she also needed to share with us, repeatedly, her need to pee.

Still, with Allen one must take the rough with the smooth. If the trade-off to a little over-sharing is a set full of brave and brilliant songs, this increasingly feels like a deal worth making.

★★★★☆

© Rick PearsonThe Evening Standard, 18 December 2018

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