Lilly Allen - Manchester Academy 21.1.06

For all we know by the press cuttings Lilly Allen may not be real. A mere invention for the cyberspace kids to behold in the same regard as Lara Croft or the Crazy Frog. Before we'd seen so much as one gig, word about Lilly Allen was spreading through her bitchy blogs and the music was being heard by hundreds of thousands on Myspace each week. Its only now with a
successful album and a couple of singles behind her that she's prepared to step out of the computer screen to sold out capacity venues around the country bypassing the trials of the toilet scene along the way.

Designer Magazine is wary of tonight's show after disappointing live TV shows have made Lilly Allen look like a bored petulant teenager of Kevin & Perry proportions. By the end of tonight's gig we're still not convinced but with a few live shows behind her Lilly Allen is finally finding her place on the stage. What really makes tonight's show is not necessarily the songs or Lilly herself but an amazing backing band, who not so much recreate the album but turn it into a powerful skanking beast once their initial technical problems resolve themselves.

The thing about Lilly Allen is she's a very modern popstar. Musically this owes as much to reggae as UB40 do, but lyrically there's a finesse which is up there with Mike Skinners early work and much more interesting than anything Alex Turner can offer. Somehow like the Sugababes before he she's managed to appeal to both the credible and commercial side of the popscene which makes up for an eclectic mix of kids bored of electroclash, Nu-Ravers and parents who recognize the hook from "Alfie" or whose only single purchase is "Smile".

With the album partly recorded in Manchester the likes of Bez, Karl Powers and her pa Keith Allen are out in force. The latter runs on stage towards the end of the set with Lilly telling the "c*nt" to "f*ck off". Like father like daughter Lilly has no airs and graces which is what makes modern pop so delectable - imagine if every popstar more was like Lilly Allen and less like Westlife and you can imagine that Smash Hits would have been shifting more copies than every other music magazine.

As much as we love the album it's only covers of Keane's "Everybody's Changing" and The Kooks "Naive" that provide any real surprises. The former is a misjudged mistake while the latter is a charming semi-acoustic lilt in the set. While Lilly Allen is streets ahead of the rest of the contemporary music scene in terms of using Myspace as the ultimate marketing tool, in the live arena she still have a lot to learn in terms of commanding the audiences attention and you hope by the time she plays the arena next year she have a vibrancy and a collection of fresh songs

Alex McCann

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