Lily Allen, Bush Hall, London

Girl from two streets down smiles her way to the top
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The Independent Culture

She may have worn her best frock and a tiara, but it was as the girl from two streets down that Lily Allen showed she may emerge as the real deal.

You may be forgiven for a sense of déjà vu, given the number of precocious female stars around. Only a few weeks ago we were in a venue of similar, limited dimensions for another solo artiste who debuted at No 1, the webcaster Sandi Thom. While we are having second thoughts about the Scottish singer, Allen Jnr offers a very different sound.

The daughter of the actor Keith Allen achieved her own fast-moving success without coffee-house folk, instead the hit single "Smile" owed its success to garage grooves, post-baggy beats and echoes of her parents' record collections: reggae, The Specials and The Clash.

Moreover, while Thom went online after she failed to make it on the road, Lily plunged straight in with her own motormouth blog. Not that you would guess this from her giggling, uncertain start. Lily may profess admiration for the confrontational stagecraft of Liam Gallagher, but she won admirers by admitting she had grown up round the corner from this former dancehall.

Nor did a constant smile hamper her easy vocal style, a combination of casual pop delivery and west London MC chat. She could hold a tune, but wilted under the heat and proved unable to carry the varied emotions of her album, the launch of which this gig celebrated.

Alright, Still comes with a winning mix of bite and vulnerability. Yet after the dreamy break-up song "Littlest Things" ambled by to no great effect, Lily wisely took a breather. This gave a chance for her newly expanded band to shine. A rootsy brass trio was perfect for filling in her sample-based studio sound. Otherwise, her backing group were only suited to Lily's more raucous numbers.

"Friday Night" pilfered the cod-sinister feel of The Specials' "Ghost Town", but still hinted Lily had more to offer than a mere female version of Mike Skinner. With this song's depiction of girl-on-girl aggro she is finding her own distinctive voice.

Despite the fact she was breathless by the time "Smile" came around, the number still felt like it had become a summer staple for years to come. Just as inspired was a brass-driven version of the Kaiser Chiefs' "Oh My God".

It was meant as an encore, along with "Alfie", an ode to her lazy brother. However Lily forgot to walk off stage. She may have lacked Ricky Wilson's contagious enthusiasm, but her mix of star quality and earthiness meant she was already on her way. Whether her brother minds is a different story.

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