If Lily Allen was trying to get crowd to fall head-over-heels in love with her, I’m pretty sure it worked. Equal parts unapologetic, gracious and adorable, Allen wooed the packed 9:30 Club during her sold out show Friday night.
Before Allen made her appearance, opener Natalie Portman’s Shaved Head– a high-energy collective of fresh-faced Seattle kids who easily could have been confused for an NYU hipster band–hit the stage. They bopped around to MGMT-esque electro-infused beats, clad in tight jeans and keds (only one member had an ironic mustache).
Half the audience was right there rocking with NPSH through their best-known tracks “Me + Yr Daughter” (which deftly rhymes “legit” with “we fit”) and “Sophisticated Side Ponytail.” The other half seemed either confused by songs detailing attractive types of hair — “Sophisticated Side Ponytail,” “Beard Lust” — or entranced by the lead-singer’s neon yellow suspenders.
The main act opened with Allen silouetted behind a white curtain and the charged intro crescendo of “Everyone’s at It,” the first track of her new album, “It’s Not Me, It’s You.” The curtain was pulled down to reveal Allen, flanked by her band and framed by giant letters spelling L-I-L-Y. She channelled a 40s-pinup, in a strapless short-suit adorned with what kind of looked like muppet googly-eyes (want. it.).
From there she hit most of her new songs, interspersing old fan favorites like “Oh My God,” “LDN” and “Littlest Things.” After a few songs, she called for her first of several cigarettes of the night, puffing it mid-song — an act that seemed enviably cute and cool. Later, she would call out for a drink, “an alcoholic one, please. I mean one made with alcohol. Freudian slip there.”
Before each new song, she chatted with the audience a little about the origins of songs. Did you know, for example, that “Chinese,” a tune about domestic bliss was written for Allen’s mother, who she understandably sees little of while touring? After that song wrapped up, Allen wiped tears from her eyes and laughed.
Audience participation was enthusiastic during “Not Fair,” a frank discussion of the disappoinment of a new love interest who is bad in bed, which she of course dedicated to the ladies. “Fuck You,” Allen’s song to George W. Bush, was also a fan favorite, though I noticed the boys behind me in Georgetown t-shirts looked less-than amused. I wished I could have had a snapshot of the 9:30 club scene during the chorus — hundreds of people with their middle fingers in the air, mirroring Allen and singing along: “Fuck you very very much.”
After they wrapped up, Allen and the band disappeared from the stage for a few minutes, during which time bring-her-back applause never quieted. A crop of fans began a “Here-we-go-Li-ly, Herewego!” cheer. They didn’t make us suffer long, returning to the stage once more, with Allen looking relaxed after changing into jeans and a t-shirt. It wasn’t hard to guess what would come next — the steady beat and piano notes of “Smile” started up to a shriek from fans.
After that came her latest single “The Fear,” which is currently in the top 100 on i-Tunes’ Top Songs. “Come on DC, I need to see you dance!” she ordered, and the club obeyed, singing along to characteristic pseudo-satirical lines like “I’m not a saint/and I’m not a sinner/but everything’s cool long as I’m getting thinner.” The show concluded with an extremely well-received cover of Britney’s Spears’ “Womanizer” and Allen and the audience beaming at each other, equally enamored.