Lily Allen’s first gig was at the Notting Hill Arts Club, the first of four residency slots in which she rattled off four songs backed by two producer types. While the stifling temperature of that first gig is unchanged for tonight’s event, much else has. Lily Allen is now number one in the singles chart with Smile, and her album Alright Still looks a dead cert for the top spot this week too.
Accordingly, Lily’s backing band has expanded as have her press column inches, earnings and fan base. Tonight’s crew includes a brass section, a computer man, somebody in a frightwig, somebody else wearing horns, a keyboardist and, centre stage of course, the petite frame of Lily, bedecked in green ballgown and trainers, with luminous eyelids, alice band and bling necklace and earrings.
With an album’s worth of summery tunes and temperatures to match, Lily as sound of the summer is as sure a bet as Pete to win Big Brother. She knows it too. A couple of festival appearances and a short club tour have, it seems, boosted her confidence on stage. She’s happy backchatting audience requests for Alfie now, or telling her admirers who helped write which songs, and the circumstances in which some came about.
In the audience is co-writer Mark Ronson – a big noise Stateside but, as Lily cheekily puts it, “better known in New York than over here”. Various other collaborators and friends are singled out for attention as she trills her way through the album. LDN opens the evening, in the completely appropriate Shepherd’s Bush setting for its antique Lord Kitchener calypso vibe. Nan You’re A Window Shopper, left off the album due to sample clearance issues, gets a great reception. After five songs Lily asks permission to leave the stage – for air, perhaps? We’re now in what feels like a sauna…
Lily tells us that she used to live two streets away from Bush Hall, but the local girl is now, as she reminds us, at number one for a second week. It’s a homecoming of sorts for one who looks like being away a lot. Tonight is Monday, but Friday Night gets us underway again, and Everything’s Just Wonderful is exactly that. The two-step parping of Knock ‘Em Out and cheekily knowing Not Big seem catchier live than on the album. Not everyone in the audience seems to have heard all the songs – there are gasps and smiles as the breathtakingly rude lyrics sink in. The lilting reggae of Friend Of Mine is a highlight, a chance for the tempo to slip back to a less frenetic pace.
After Smile she’s so into the gig that she forgets to leave stage for her encore. A rather saggy cover of Kaiser Chiefs‘ Oh My God pinpricks the balloon of good feeling somewhat, but gives way to Alfie. There are only sporadic whoops for more – she’s explained she’s just accidentally played her encore and, after just an hour, she has no more in the tank. In the stifling conditions, her audience seem happy to agree, shambling towards the door for air, but exuding good vibes and grinning all the same.