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Lily Allen is proof that likeability goes far in pop music. Unlike Joss Stone, whose career is unravelling following a disastrous attempt to relaunch herself as a soul diva, Allen comes across as a real person. Stone may have a better voice, but Allen has the popular touch.
At this concert, a final warm- up gig before leaving for her first US tour, she confessed to being a bit drunk, spilt a drink down the front of her dress and dedicated a song to an eclectic list of dislikes including mortgage lenders, teachers, politicians and fashion magazine editors. The audience, which ranged from teenage girls to fortysomething couples, cheered along in sympathy. Chants of “Lily, Lily!” went up between songs. Suspicions that her overnight ascent to stardom last summer was simply down to celebrity connections (her father is the actor Keith Allen) and media hype melted away.
It was, however, a hit-and- miss set. Her opening number “LDN”, a bittersweet tribute to her home-town London, set the ball rolling with its calypso rhythms and sharp lyrics. There were other jaunty highlights from her debut album Alright, Still too: the bouncy ska track “Friday Night”, for instance, and the reggae kiss-off track “Shame For You” (she does a fine line in sardonic break-up songs).
The idea of a white, middle- class girl singing Caribbean- influenced pop is incongruous, but Allen sounded at home with the bulk of her material. Her singing style was unspectacular but sweet: it was well-suited to a reggae version of Blondie’s “Heart of Glass”, though vocal limitations were exposed during slower numbers. Two new tracks were unconvincing. “Sunday Morning” was a bland trip-hop mooch, while “Absolutely Nothing” was a purposeless ballad.
“I’m off to America tomorrow!” she announced at the end of the gig. Can she crack the US? Alright, Still entered the charts at number 20 there, which is a promising start. She will have to iron out a few musical shortcomings, though: likeability can only get you so far.
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