concert review: Lily Allen, Natalie Portman's Shaved Head @ Sound Academy (Toronto, Ontario) - April 22, 2009
Lily Allen @ Sound Academy(April 22, 2009): photo by Michael Ligon
Lily Allen, that young woman in the chiffon dress back in 2006 who'd I'd witnessed make her sold-out but all-too-brief Toronto debut at Lee's Palace is now able to play large venues like Sound Academy as she did last week to a nearly sold out audience. Her debut "Alright Still" whose popularity was a product of months of Internet buzz was favourite of mine in 2006. However, two and half years later with the release of her sophomore album "It's Not Me It's You" seems like a long time and I'd doubed whether Sound Academy was too large of a venue for Lily but witnessing the nearly sold-out crowd and many in attendance (mostly young ladies) singing along to the new songs was ample evidence that Lily's more popular than ever.
Opening the show was Seattle's Natalie Portman's Shaved Head, a band name which is just plain terrible, although the music while not the type of longevity at least had more than an ounce of fun. Like an electro-dance-rock B-52's for the new millenium they sang songs abouts beards, ponytails, Madonna, and how highschool sucks(this last song which drummer Liam Downey Jr., a devoted follower of Degrassi, devoted the song too). Lead vocals for the most part were handled energetically by vocalist Luke Smith although lone female member Claire England did her best white-girl rapping on "Sophisticated Side Ponytail".
Maybe it was because Toronto was the last stop of her current North American stop that Lily Allen seemed in such high spirits. Or maybe it was she'd had a little to drink but whatever it was she was happy. As Lily would eventually express to the crowd, she was looking forward to going home to her mom (who always cooks her tasty meals), and to her dog. With the back of the stage emblazoned with the word "Lily" in large white letters, Lily finalled made her entrance to a rapturous crowd. Coming out in a hoody covering her head she'd eventually shed the jacket altogether to reveal a black spandex outfit. She did admit to wearing Spanx (a type of slimming garment) and saying how all the women in the crowd would know what she's talking about which drew a response from the ladies.
The set drew heavy on her most recent album "It's Not Me It's You" of course and while lyrically she's as biting and honest as ever, it does follow more of a pop-oriented approach than it's predecessor "Alright Still" which felt like a multicultural collision between Lily's London-town roots and influences from Calypso, ska, and hip hop. It was lovely to hear her perform the first album's 'Everything's Just Wonderful' which she hadn't performed at Lee's in 2006 and her infectious skanking hit 'Smile' (which she performed during the encore, by which time she'd changed into jeans and a t-shirt) but the set was truly devoted to her most recent album. I like the country-western leanings of "Not Fair" and the polished-pop of "Chinese" and "This Fear" and as the new songs unravelled before me I realized how good the new album was. Needless to say, I should really go buy it. It's only Lily who could pull off singing a song called "Fuck You", a song that's less about shock value and more of a cheeky poke at the asshole(George W. Bush) it's written about. Lily expressed while the song was written about one asshole in mind it could apply to any number of assholes, bigots, racists, or what have you. I'd have never expected Lily Allen as this generation's 'folk' music but during that song, as we'd all happily raised our middle fingers in unison, you wouldn't have doubted it.
Photos: Lily Allen @ Sound Academy (April 22, 2009)
MuchMusic and Fazer have a review of and photos from the show. Also check out reviews over at chartattack, The Toronto Sun and The Toronto Star.
MySpace: Natalie Portman's Shaved Head
MySpace: Lily Allen