It is an important night for Lily Allen. To many, the daughter of the actor Keith Allen is still the pop sensation who emerged from MySpace with a great No.1 hit, "Smile", two-and-a-half years ago. On the other hand, she could be just another celebrity filling tabloid columns.
Her reputation as an outspoken starlet who likes to party, and recent pictures of her with the art dealer Jay Jopling in the Carribbean, have fuelled paparazzi interest.
Tonight the photographers fill the front row. She teases them as she pulls up her tuxedo-style corset top, which she wears with tiny silver hot-pants and thick, black, opaque tights over her svelte figure. "This thing keeps falling down," she teases. "My nipples are going to fall out. But you lot have to go now – bye!"
Allen is still a girlish 23-year-old who plays with her hair when she sings, and you can hear her distinct giggle before she appears – but this time she has two bodyguards escorting her safely on to the stage. She said she had given up alcohol, but she is back to her old ways tonight – though more moderately as she is fed beers by her crew throughout the show.
Although the first song, the new Everyone's At It (Drugs), is a strong opener, it's not her best tonight. It's not until she kicks her painfully high heels off when the cameras are no longer on her after the third song that she looks, and sounds, relaxed.
When she appeared in 2006 with her observational ska pop songs, Allen was called the social commentator for today's young people. Since her album Alright, Still has been selling 2.5 million copies, a number of soundalikes – Kate Nash and Remi Nicole included – have followed. There's every reason why her new album It's Not Me, It's You, out next month, is going to be just as commercially successful. But has she still got the edge over the others?
Judging from tonight's rendition of her new single The Fear, lamenting celebrity status and consumerism, which is about to overtake Lady Gaga in the charts, she still strikes a chord. "I am a weapon of massive consumption/ And it's not my fault, it's how I'm programmed to function", she sings with resigned dismay to a crowd that is singing along with her. The song was only officially released two days ago.
A couple of familiar old songs nestle in with the new, inlcuding the breezy "LDN" and "Smile", a particular highlight and one of the best of her tunes. But she focuses on the new album because the last songs were "really juvenile", or so she exclaims, with a peal of laughter that is really juvenile. The range of styles her new album spans marks a step forward musically, from the synthed-up country style of "It's Not Fair" to the piano ballad "I Could Say" – a heartbreak song that replaces the usual wry Allen lyrics with sad vulnerability – and the dreamy vocals of "Kylie, Confide In Me". Her derisory song to George Bush is catchy, and her other provocative number, "Him, To God", proves she can still deliver sharp and and witty rhymes, as she ponders whether God's favourite band might be Creedence Clearwater Revival.
Only one song drags on – her dismissal of a former boyfriend in "Never Gonna Happen". Even she seems to get a bit bored with the lyric towards the end.
But it is her own "Back To The Start", with its nu-rave synthesiser (more enjoyable than her cover version of Britney Spear's "Womaniser" which she limbo dances to), and a song like the gorgeous "22", that show her to be a lasting talent. With a fine comeback performance like this, there will be plenty more to come from Lily Allen. She more than proved herself tonight.
First Listen: It's Not Me, It's You
Everyone's At It
A stomping opener – and typical wry Allen lyrics, about taking drugs.
Allen releases an anthem that encapsulates society's celebrity obsession, celebrity's obsession with the self, and consumerism.
Electro-country shouldn't work but here, as Allen laments finding the perfect caring boyfriend who is, sadly, useless in bed, it does. It's her deadpan delivery that's a winner.
An absolute gem: Allen's singalong piano ballad is a sorry tale of the modern woman who parties her 20s away and feels all washed up by 30.
I Could Say
A break-up song, probably aimed at Ed Simons of the Chemical Brothers.
Back To The Start
An electro-pop song topped by Allen's honeyed vocals: an honest apology for being a terrible friend.
Never Gonna Happen
Allen deadpans her heave-ho to an over-keen lover, repeating "I don't love you" over the solitary accordion.
Allen tells George Bush exactly what she thinks of him.
Who'd Have Known
Allen's grammar for the title, at least, is correct, but she sings "Who'd of known" throughout the song.
One of the weaker tracks, and nothing to do with China or its people.
Allen's song about God is irreverent without being offensive.
He Wasn't There
She forgives her father, Keith, for not being around when she was a child.Reuse content