Lily Allen, Auckland, February 2 – She’s sharp, and likeable

Lily Allen presented a pared down show which put the spotlight absolutely on her. There was nowhere to hide. Not that she cared, for this confident and relaxed performer surely wanted no distractions. This concert was all about her songs, lyrics and personality. If you connected, you had a great time, and if not, well it may have got rather tedious. I mention this because this was my first time seeing Lily Allen and I have to say I found her immensely likeable. My colleague on Crave, Steve, had a quite different reaction, which we’ll get to that in our podcast and videocast,  available soon on our website.

My previous concert at Spark Arena had been Shania Twain’s, with its big moving stage, clever graphics, costume changes, dancers, and Twain moving around from the main stage to a small one in the centre of the main floor. A lot of razzamatazz, which Twain pulled off with aplomb. Lily Allen though presents her music in a much more straightforward and simple manner. The stage has four slim light stands, two keyboard musicians at either side, and that’s about it. Allen herself wore what looked like track pants, a bomber jacket, with her only nod to glamour being a sparkly midriff tank top. One woman, walking and occasionally dancing across the stage for an hour and a half with two musicians behind her, that was your lot. I thought it worked rather well.

The message here was surely  “I’m here for my songs and what they say”.  Given Lily Allen has built a reputation of being outspoken and of breaking down social taboos, and of doing so with plenty of profanity, this seemed entirely appropriate. This is called the No Shame tour after all. Allen doesn’t care if some are offended, as it’ll probably do such people the world of good. So we heard the her big songs with their sharp lyrics – songs about celebrity, the sexual inadequacy of men, the infidelity of men, political shallowness, (The Fear, Not Fair, Smile, Fuck You). The commentary isn’t all undertaken from the point of view of someone who’s passing judgment on others, as she fessed up to her own failings in the breakdown of a marriage. It’s this willingness to be a social rebel which clearly connected most with the audience there. Most were young women, but there were a fair share of middle aged too, men and women. Perhaps Lily Allen’s message is a refreshing one to several generations. The fact that that she presents her take on the world in a sweet and melodic voice only adds to the disarming nature of her critique of social mores.

Having said that, her voice was suffering a little, as she explained to her audience. There were frequent sips from a mug, and then a pill (I couldn’t catch its name), and occasionally a pause here and there to catch her breath in the songs. The songs are heavily pre-produced, with so many backing tracks that Allen stopping to sing now and then didn’t affect things greatly, other than to remind those of us who hanker after a true live concert with a full band what we miss out on.

Without stealing too much of Steve’s thunder, he did comment on what he saw was the sameness of the music. That’s a fair point, although when you’re hearing the work of a single singer songwriter I’ll forgive that to a large degree. One of the things I found incongruous about Robbie Williams’ show last year was how a bloke who wants to be seen as a cocky cheeky lad who’ll ruffle feathers presented such lush and commercially-tailored songs. There seemed a healthy degree of artifice, At least here, Lily Allen presented a consistent theme, in music and lyrics. Don’t for a moment think all this means it’s the show is heavy going. Far from it. Many of the songs were catchy – as evidenced by all the dancing around me on the main floor – and she had a way of drawing plenty of laughter from her fans too.

I liked the show. Steve not so much. Bring on the podcast…

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