British singer Lily Allen has never shied away from speaking her mind. But sometimes she leaves it up to the audience to determine what she’s trying to say.
The sassy, outspoken artist closed out her “Sheezus” tour in grand style at The Hollywood Palladium, filled with symbolism, sarcasm and social criticism.
Allen opened up the night with a little “hip-pop” in the sarcastic-laden title track off her latest album “Sheezus,” featuring lyrics that name-drops artists like Lady Gaga, Katy Perry and Lorde, among others. And like the song title’s tongue-in-cheek play on Kanye West’s album Yeezus, Allen mockingly positions herself alongside West to lay claim of the diva throne.
But after a five-year hiatus to start a family, perhaps the only crown Allen really cares to bare is that of mother. With a stage filled with oversized baby bottles illuminated with changing lights throughout the set, Allen surrounded herself with imagery that likely always kept her two children top of mind while on tour. Or maybe it’s just a case of baby-on-the-brain.
However, Allen looked as fit as she ever was pre-children, showing off her killer post-baby abs by removing her top at the end of “Not Fair.” Allen continued to perform wearing nothing but a red rubber bra and long, full-flowing black lacy skirt.
Allen’s new role as mom and wife plays a big part in the theme of many of the songs off Sheezus, including “As Long as I Got You,” a tune dedicated to her husband. She even addresses a topic likely relatable to many new moms in “Close Your Eyes”: the struggle to be sexy again after giving birth. During the song, Allen owned the moment as she proudly sauntered across the stage in platform shoes with a slow, deliberate stride oozing with sex appeal and confidence. She makes a real case for herself as the person who really brought sexy back.
But Allen hasn’t abandoned her desire to address social issues, as evident in “URL Badman,” which take a jab at online trolls who have nothing better to do but go online and criticize people In the song, Allen plays the role of Internet troll dripping of sarcasm and ridicule.
In between songs, Allen gave background to many of the tunes played, but it was difficult at times to really understand what she was saying due to her accent. However, it must have been funny because she was often caught giggling during her explanation.
Allen kept things fresh thanks in part to multiple costume changes, including a colorful fringed, short dress before diving into her hit song “Smile” off her 2006 debut album Alright, Still. She continued with the calypso-inspired instrumentals with “Life For Me” off her latest album. And like she had shown throughout the night, Allen seemed engrossed in the moment and rhythm of the song.
As she segued her way into “Little Things,” a song about how a baby’s love overshadows the life of a single woman, the lights focused on Allen and accompanied by the lit baby bottles, conveying a true mother-child tribute.
The 29-year-old Allen told the crowd she wrote “22” when she thought being 30 was a crime, but alas acknowledged: “Here I am!” The irony of it all is that Allen appeals to a wide demographic, young and old, and the crowd was no different on this night. In fact, she may be one of the few current artists that can be equally loved by a teenager and their middle-aged parent without embarrassment by either party.
Allen ended the set with a crowd favorite “Fuck You,” a big ole middle finger to the “man” and people in positions of power. The song invigorated the crowd, most notably during the refrain with birds flying across the ballroom floor and a collective “fuck you” echoed throughout the venue. This was the one song that really seemed to engage the crowd, adding credence to the theory that there are two things an artist can do to get the crowd riled: use the F word and mention the hometown city.
The London native returned to the stage for the encore wearing a shimmering, colorful top with USA emblazoned across the front and sparkly silver pants. Curiously, Allen came out to sing a cover of Ty Dolla $ign’s “Or Nah,” a misogynistic tune laced with raw, graphic sexual lyrics. Perhaps she is a fan of the song and artist, or maybe she chose to sing that song as a way to take control and empower herself and other women over such sexist lyrics and explicit imagery. Either way, it’s yet another example of a moment left up to the audience to interpret on their own.
But the show closer “Hard Our Here” probably best summarizes who Allen is: a smart, hard-working woman in a male-dominated industry. Allen’s back-up dancers came out wearing dog masks, possibly representing both women as bitches and men as dogs who objectify women. Nevertheless, Allen continues to push the envelope and convey a message beyond just what you hear and see on stage.
As cheeky and brash as Allen can be, she also comes across as very sweet and likeable with her innocent giggles and bright smile. She successfully delivers feel-good music that’s easy to digest and lifts the audience’s spirit. She showed that connectionith a huge smile on her face.
“Thank you Los Angeles. See you next time!”
Photos by Scott Sheff