Lily Allen, Shepherd’s Bush, gig review: Controversy can't ruin pop star at her best

3.00

If you were steered solely by the squalls of online opinion, you’d view Lily Allen’s comeback as something of a disaster so far.

From her opening gambit with the satirical video for ‘Hard Out Here’ - dogged by accusations of racism - she’s stumbled from one misunderstanding from another, accused of dismissing feminism and dissing her pop peers.

While some of the controversies were merely the result of misinterpretation (though others, such as her response to a online spat with Azealia Banks, can’t be defended), Allen’s made a poor job of explaining herself, and her willingness to talk down the songs released so far and badmouth her label didn’t improve matters.

Thankfully, she’s on surer ground on a stage than a soapbox these days. Tonight’s intro doesn’t bode well, as a video screen displays two baby bottles slowly revolving to become giant, dribbling breasts, but then ‘Sheezus’ begins.

Rather than the giant bitchfest it’s been portrayed as by critics who don’t listen carefully enough, though, its slow, wry groove finds a weary Allen being forced into the competition we create among female popstars, unwilling, sceptical yet still wanting to win despite herself.

Lily Allen performs on stage at Shepherd's Bush with backing dancers Lily Allen performs on stage at Shepherd's Bush with backing dancers

Twerking dancers accompany ‘Hard Out Here’, which beyond its much-debated video is a crass, hamfisted song. It gets a huge singalong, though, and by the time Allen reaches old favourite ‘Smile’, graced with a junglistic breakdown, she’s got a sold-out, tube-strike braving crowd eating out of her palm, even as she berates them for not showing enough appreciation for her “first big gig in ages”.

And apart from the dire ‘L8 CMMR’, in which a sweet and exuberant chorus can’t lift free of cringey verses about how her husband is “taken, ladies/I got me his babies”, the new songs sound good.

"As Long As I Got You" is a country-poppy, Stones-tinged celebration of domestic fulfilment that sits between Primal Scream’s "Jailbird" and "Footloose". The "Paper Planes"-ish "Our Time" is wistfully charming, even if does rhyme “Kenzo” with “benzos”.

The tone of the new tracks is, for all their witty and complex takes on growing older and changing priorities, fresh, sweet and breezy. "Insincerely Yours" has a smooth Nineties West Coast hip-hop feel, while "URL Badman" takes on craven internet trolls with a fresher, more melancholic hip-hop sound, and "Life For Me" is a vibrant Afro-pop number with sweet hi-life guitar.

Of the oldies, "The Fear" hits truest, like the classic it is, and even "Fuck You", a flashback to the time anyone who was anyone was writing yet another bloody song about George Bush, sparkles, Lily now sporting a giant fake diamond tiara and gold jumpsuit (“my stylist told me to”).

"Not Fair’"closes proceedings with a far less disappointing finish than the unfortunate male skewered in its lyrics, all cowpunked up and stompy.

It remains to be seen whether or not she’ll really ever be "Sheezus", but for now it's good to see that neither her detractors nor the woman herself can ruin pop writing as good as Allen at her best.

Arts and Entertainment
Ben Affleck as Nick Dunne, seated next to a picture of his missing wife Amy, played by Rosamund Pike

film
Arts and Entertainment
A bit rich: Maggie Smith in Downton Abbey

There’s revolution in the air, but one lady’s not for turning

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Rachel, Chandler and Ross try to get Ross's sofa up the stairs in the famous 'Pivot!' scene

Friends 20th anniversary
Arts and Entertainment
Lena Dunham

booksReview: Lena Dunham, Not That Kind of Girl
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Chloe-Jasmine Whicello impressed the judges and the audience at Wembley Arena with a sultry performance
TVReview: Who'd have known Simon was such a Roger Rabbit fan?
Arts and Entertainment
Nick Frost will star in the Doctor Who 2014 Christmas special

TV
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
A spell in the sun: Emma Stone and Colin Firth star in ‘Magic in the Moonlight’
filmReview: Magic In The Moonlight
Arts and Entertainment
Friends is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year
TV
Arts and Entertainment
Ben Whishaw is replacing Colin Firth as the voice of Paddington Bear

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Actor and director Zach Braff

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Maisie Williams plays 'bad ass' Arya Stark in Game of Thrones

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Liam Neeson said he wouldn't

TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Meera Syal was a member of the team that created Goodness Gracious Me

TV
Arts and Entertainment
The former Doctor Who actor is to play a vicar is search of a wife

film
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
Pointless host Alexander Armstrong will voice Danger Mouse on CBBC

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell dismissed the controversy surrounding

music
Arts and Entertainment
Jack Huston is the new Ben-Hur

film
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Cara Delevingne modelling

film
Arts and Entertainment
Emma Thompson and Bryn Terfel are bringing Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street to the London Coliseum

theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Robin Thicke's video for 'Blurred Lines' has been criticised for condoning rape

Robin Thicke admits he didn't write 'Blurred Lines'

music
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'

film
Arts and Entertainment
Matt Damon as Jason Bourne in The Bourne Ultimatum (2007)

film
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

    Not That Kind of Girl:

    A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
    London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

    London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

    In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
    Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

    Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

    Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
    Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

    Model mother

    Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
    Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

    Apple still the coolest brand

    Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
    Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

    Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

    Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
    Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

    Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

    The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
    The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

    Scrambled eggs and LSD

    Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
    'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

    'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

    Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
    Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

    New leading ladies of dance fight back

    How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
    Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

    A shot in the dark

    Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
    His life, the universe and everything

    His life, the universe and everything

    New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
    Reach for the skies

    Reach for the skies

    From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
    These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

    12 best hotel spas in the UK

    Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments