It’s been just under four years since Lily Allen last played in New York and, as she tells us tonight (April 23) at Music Hall Of Williamsburg, a lot has changed for her in that time. “Shortly after that, I seriously lost my shit,” she says of the intervening years, laughing before explaining she’s referring to the breakdown of her marriage and struggles with alcoholism.
That openness and willingness to laugh at her recent past is a theme of the night as she previews much of her imminent new album, ‘No Shame’. “This is gonna be less like a stand up comedy show at some point,” she promises after airing debut album cut ‘Knock ‘Em Out’. That song also shows a different kind of change – a positive one. She refuses to recite the song’s last line (“AIDS, AIDS, I got AIDS“), gasping into the mic, “I can’t! I can’t!” Afterwards, she offers an explanation: “I’m not that person anymore.”
There’s still plenty of the old Lily – the Lily that grabbed the world’s attention with blunt humour and frank songwriting – present tonight and in her new songs, though. Of the three songs she’s already released from ‘No Shame’, two are at the softer end of the spectrum (‘Higher’, ‘Three’), but tonight’s set shows she’s still got some bangers up her sleeve. ‘Come On Then’ begins with ominous beats like an incoming panic attack as she laments “I’m a bad mother/I’m a bad wife/You saw it on the socials/You saw it online“, but its chorus is a slab of drum’n’bass euphoria. Parts of ‘Lost My Mind’ have the cadence of muted steel pans, like you’re listening to a distant carnival, even when she’s singing downcast lines like about being “stuck in a rut“, and “I couldn’t breathe/I couldn’t sleep“.
There are sombre moments too, like ‘Apples’, a sparse piece about the end of her marriage, and ‘Family Man’, a piano-led track that feels like it’s about to break into any number of classic ballads at any second. But where Lily excels is on the likes of the zippy ‘My One’, which elicits huge cheers when she sweetly sings: “Baby, I fucked half the boys in Paris.” It’s a mix of everything you want from her – sassy, heartfelt, and endlessly catchy.
After a spirited rendition of ‘Fuck You’ (“I wrote this when George W. Bush was president… on the face of it maybe we should bring him back,” goes the introduction), there’s a short break before Giggs’ powerful flow booms from the PA and around the venue. ‘Trigger Bang’ might be the best thing Lily’s ever done – a breezy reflection on her past and putting distance between herself and the toxic “cool gang” – and the reaction to the song tonight cements that idea. As the last notes fade out, there’s a full minute of cheers, hollers, and ferocious applause. If this were a seated venue, it would be the moment the singer received a standing ovation – a rare but incredibly electric moment of true appreciation, and proof that, through it all, Lily hasn’t lost her golden touch.