Lily Allen Lightens Fox Theater’s Load

Lily Allen w/ Lolawolf

Oct. 8, 2014

Fox Theater, Oakland

It’s not all that common to hear any 29-year-old – especially a 29-year-old pop singer from rigorously dreary England – wax poetic about how peachily everything has turned out in life.

But that was what it was to hear Lily Allen at Oakland’s Fox Theater Wednesday. With a few notable exceptions – like the widely popular and cheerfully vengeful “Smile” – the London-born singer played a set full of songs narrating triumphant (approaching boastful) contentment. You get the impression that many of them began as Facebook statuses.

This isn’t to call Allen’s work or performance fluffy – just charmingly un-self-conscious. On stage, Allen seems to assume and expect that her audience will relate to and participate in her carefree-ness. And – for those hours that they’re in the same building with her – they can and they do.

Lily Allen © Pedro Paredes-Haz
Lily Allen © Pedro Paredes-Haz

Allen has been married since 2011 (her husband, Sam Cooper, was at Wednesday’s show) and has two children. Many of the songs she performed were from her latest record, Sheezus (released in May), and celebrate the joys of married and domestic life. And after the littlest bit of research, Allen’s musical reveling in these joys begin to make sense – her two children were preceded by a miscarriage and a stillbirth.

With this information, one begins to understand the unsubtle choice in stage décor (more than 20 person-sized inflated and occasionally illuminated baby bottles), and many of Allen’s songs – like “Close Your Eyes,” which she bashfully explained was written about sex post-childbirth – become deeply sweet.

Accompanying Allen was a band dressed in distinct costumes (her guitarist, for example, wore an adult-sized infant’s onesie and bonnet), a fleet of backup dancers, and a crew (also distinctly costumed) who, in the middle of “Smile,” joined her onstage for a brief but fervent rave.

Lily Allen © Pedro Paredes-Haz
Lily Allen © Pedro Paredes-Haz

Throughout the show Allen was committedly casual, often pausing during a song to sip from a cup or pull on a cigarette, dispensing chipper tour complaints between songs (“I don’t even know what day of the week it is,” etc.), and actually bursting out laughing in the middle of “Everyone’s At It” and having to back up and start again. Even in the capacious Fox Theater, it felt a bit like she’d invited us over for a house show.

But at the set’s end she buckled down to make some points. The set concluded with “Fuck You” – a song about “sticking it to the man,” she said (in particular, the man George W. Bush), and whose chorus was strengthened by a sea of the audience’s lifted middle fingers.

And for the encore, Allen performed “Hard Out Here,” a jaunty and refreshingly straightforward feminist anthem/lamentation.

“Forget your balls and grow a pair of tits,” Allen sang, “it’s hard out here for a bitch.” There’s not a program of action in those lines, but they sure feel good to sing.

Set List: Sheezus | Not Fair | LDN | As Long As I Got You | Our Time | Everyone’s At It | Close Your Eyes | The Worst [Jhené Aiko cover] | URL Badman | Smile | Life For Me | Littlest Things | Miserable Without Your Love | The Fear | 22 | L8 CMMR | Who’d Have Known | Fuck You

Encore: Hard Out Here