Lily Allen Wraps Sheezus Tour with Shaky Hollywood Show: Concert Review
Lily Allen loves to take the the piss out of someone, but it’s not always clear who.
Case in point: the British musician concluded her U.S. headlining run at Los Angeles' Palladium on Friday night and invoked a slew of visuals that were seemingly meant as satire on, well, something. Allen’s recent album, Sheezus, took aim at pop music and its stars, the title track playfully poking everyone from Beyonce to Katy Perry to Kanye West, the latter who inspired album's title if not her own grappling with how femininity is manifested in mainstream music. The Sheezus Tour, however, didn’t quite hits its target.
Allen's stage, for starters, featured 20 or so massive baby bottles which lit up throughout the performance. Was she suggesting her audience were all a bunch of babies or just pointing out that she’s now a mother? And for someone with so much to say in her songs — and often online — Allen didn’t converse much with the audience. She offered short quips about the songs’ meanings or contexts, but didn’t elaborate. As she launched into “LDN,” Allen noted, “This song is about my hometown” as she peeled off her sweater to reveal a red bra and killer abs.
The audience was mostly un-enthused for the new material, like “L8 CMMR” and “Our Time,” a track Allen said was about “the end of the week," while her earlier material seems to have stood the test of time. Numbers from 2006’s Alright, Still felt relevant now, particularly as Allen charmed her way through buoyant pop track “Smile” and the bumping “Littlest Things.”
When the lyrics told a deeper story, Allen hit strongly. In “Everyone’s At It,” off It’s Not Me, It’s You, the singer said she was after “people who make judgments about other people” and the need for societal acceptance of drug use. Her words were timely when they emerged in 2009 and still feel as compellingly wry now. Even her new track, “URL Badman,” sends up people “who have nothing better to do than sit on their phones,” Allen remarked. “Those people who sit on their phones and computers just spewing negative shit.” It’s a good message and one that represents Allen’s power as a pop star who dangles her feet off the edge, disinterested in fully playing the game in which many of her peers compete.
Earlier this year, Allen unveiled a colorful video for her new single “Hard Out Here” which parodied Robin Thicke’s blatantly misogynistic clip for “Blurred Lines.” It contained some controversial imagery, including the half-naked, gyrating dancers she’s replicated in her tour. Allen reasoned it was the best possible use of her celebrity. She’s aware that roaming the streets in a hat that reads “Cunt” will draw attention and, more importantly, raise a point about what we are and aren’t supposed to say. In “Hard Out Here” Allen crooned, “If you can’t detect the sarcasm, you’ve misunderstood.”
As Allen performed the single for the show’s final number, her dancers, wearing black form-fitting catsuits, emerged wearing dog masks, presumably a wink at the song’s chorus of “It’s hard out here for a bitch.” But like with the baby bottles, it wasn’t totally clear what the visual message was. The real power play came when Allen covered Ty Dolla $ign’s heavily-sexualized “Or Nah,” which features lyrics like “Can you let me stretch that pussy out or nah?/ I'm not the type to call you back tomorrow.” Hearing Allen sing such a raunchy refrain rearranged its meaning, invoking the gender shift of Tori Amos’ cover of Eminem’s “’97 Bonnie and Clyde.” Allen elongated the rap verses, altering the listening experience. She may just be a fan of the song, but if Allen intended to make a point by covering the track, it was one she made well.
Of course, the audience’s favorite was “F— You,” Allen’s 2009 single that is about politicians who are “f—ing dickheads.” “Sorry I can’t help it,” the singer told the crowd as she launched into the tune — the last before the encore. “I’d stay here forever if I could," she cracked. "Let me see those fingers, people.”
As the aesthetic counterpart to the latest stage of Allen's musical career, the tour lacked the impact of her words, but Allen remains a vibrant and interesting performer. Sure, she may occasionally miss the mark, but Lily Allen is a musician we need, one who isn’t afraid to continually point out the flaws around us. In pop music, that no-fear stance counts for a lot.
As Long as I Got You
Everyone's At It
Close Your Eyes
Life for Me
Miserable Without Your Love
Who'd Have Known
Hard Out Here