By Ari Bendersky of Something Glorious
The blogosphere can be a harsh place. After months of building up Lily Allen on the strength of her two songs "LDN" and "Smile," people in New York and LA who caught her show in those cities over the last week have been anything but nice ...she doesn't know the words to her songs ... her stage presence sucks ... she's better left to the studio.
I guess her Chicago show was the lucky stop because she had four other cities to warm up for us -- and didn't have to deal with industry assholes and celebrities on their blackberrys, just honest fans out for a good night of music ... on a Monday no less.
So after Mark Ronson warmed up the crowd with his DJ set (and he did warm things up mashing up Fiddy with the Jackson 5, the Strokes and more songs you wouldn't necessarily think to put together but sounded great), Lily's band -- three horns, a bassist and a keyboardist -- took the stage and welcomed her up (after she finished her Parliament in the stairwell adjacent to the stage).
Walking on to "LDN," she launched into a cute, warm and friendly 50-minute set (apparently two songs longer than the other cities because she "got in trouble for not playing long enough"). Wearing a solid blue cotton worker dress, her hair pulled back, held together with a neon green plastic headband, Lily charmed the crowd with her innocence but knocked us out with her adept lyricism and reggae-infused, '60s-pop-influenced songs.
Sure, she's young and has a lot to learn when it comes to pleasing a live crowd -- she's 21 for god's sake and on her first US jaunt. She might have two No. 1 singles under her belt in the UK -- and a lot to tackle with the US -- but I think she'll manage just fine. These are just warm ups for when her album in released in January here. It's already out in the UK, but I was told tonight that when the album comes out Stateside, it'll have four additional tracks the UK version doesn't have. Don't know which ones, but it's a bonus.
Something I found interesting was Lily's lack of her "mockney" accent she somehow picked up, despite being the daughter of successful British actor and comedian Keith Allen (funny that she's hooked up with Ronson, also the offspring of wealthy British socialites). She has this sort of street-wise persona, but on stage tonight I think the real Lily came through. She was sweet -- that's the best way to describe her. She lightly chatted with the audience, borrowing someone's lighter to ignite her cigarette. Overall, though, she mainly focused on the music, which included the "Karma Police"-sampled (and possibly "Wild World" sampled?!) "Littlest Things," "Smile," "Knock 'Em Out," "Not Big," and "Alfie," which when I was in London last week, she hoped to sing to her younger brother (Alfie) at her more-than-sold-out gig there but he failed to show up. I guess he is still a little lazy.
One suggestion on her stage presence is that she needs to look all around more often. Standing stage left, Lily hardly looked our way. She seemed to favor her right side.
My gut tells me that she'll have staying power. Like the Arctic Monkeys who achieved even bigger hype on both sides of the pond, Lily Allen is a clever songwriter and solid artist. Come 2007, will bloggers and early adopters still be on her side? Only time will tell.
[head over to Something Glorious to check out more from Ari, as he tackles music, culture, fashion, travel, and just about anything else he finds cool.]