[Lily Allen’s] understated introduction to the world was that Saturday morning wake-up from the flashy Friday night of .com 40 puffery. Fear not: all isn’t lost in the MySpace generation; for the ten thousand avastars, there is Lily Allen: the reason, that just so happens to rhyme with silly. So, allow she to reintroduce herself…
Wednesday night, amidst Atlanta’s metropolitan backdrop of ubiquitous development, and the internal company of a most eclectic motley crew of New South denizens, Buckhead Theatre became the stellar soundboard for Lily Allen’s latest iteration, No Shame.
The Scene: Lily’s setlist spanned eleven years of the Wordsworth of the MySpace Generation’s rhythmic discourses and dialogues by-way-of Pop lyricism; line by line, the audience retraced the footsteps and and soundtreks that led us through said decade of lucid chances… oscillating fame, and independent identity lost and found.
The audience, from the contexual scope of Atlanta, brought a touch of Five Points to the otherwise-bourgeoisie Buckhead proximity. The sheer spectrum, within such a precise niche of Pop audiophilia, spoke volumes-in-a-subtle-whisper to that universal language of live music in the modern age.
A glimpse from the stage would reveal real housewives, future-debutantes and suitors-du-jour, sorority bigs and littles, peripheral industry types, emerging tech / startup non-suits in fitted button-downs and loafers, bottle-blondes donning Doc Martens and The Craft tees with black denim-cutoffs, and Model UN ambassadors sharing a single frame… of the course, and without a doubt, the front-row barricade was well-stacked with those day-ones, the IRL Top 8; all of the above sharing a floor, point of view, and present purpose: the long-awaited return of their Hammersmith muse.
From sound and scene, to story and score, Lily’s No Shame Tour revisited those oft-overlooked elements of Millennial Pop’s twenty-something nostalgia. Somewhere, a skosh past the show’s halfway point, during an interlude ode to a most glorious slice of time – one which, admittedly, feels centuries further gone than a calendar would claim – it fell into place, that oddly-precise feeling of socio-sonic placement, that exact element of nostalgia…
Anyone here remember MySpace?
The collective scene evoked a sense of the Theatre stage’s momentary place as Lily’s living revival of the legendary MySpace page – but make it “now;” tunes, crews, riffs, rhymes and points-of-view… Top (1)8 :: The Re-Up: re-coded.
The Soundtrack: Opening-act S-X delivered deep-minimalist measures, akin to a subterranean spin on The Weeknd. Think low-fi rhythmic lounge bass and blues with a staccato echo break linger… stark with a humble confident swelter aura. It felt autumnal, like a mid-November night scene at an underground bassment party.
Then, without further ado, four albums into a novel aural anthology: Lily emerged; with that, the venue transformed into a jukebox-soapbox haven for the lyricist’s live unveiling of her latest release, No Shame.
The album, in title and tracklist, speaks to Allen’s signature tone and crafted technique: to dive into that narrow crevice of modern culture and express exploration of the contemporary human condition – that dynamic flux between the personal and the public, the celebrity and the scene, the artist and the audience, the individual and the industry, the muse and their mediated representation, the citizen and their social environment. The live show found its pulse in its uncanny ability to convey that very exchange, beyond the confines of a detached streaming age, and into the active interplay between the musician and their avid fanbase.
Lead-off “Come On Then” presaged a bildungsroman soundtrek through Allen’s tenure in an industry unequivocally defined by its fourth-wall shattering interconnectedness. The key to dissolving rupture, between artists and the assemblage, is individuals voicing perspective when given a platform, critique by-way-of genuine lyrical articulation of personal experience, namely:
I try to keep an open mind
I feel like I’m under attack all of the time
My head can’t always hold itself so high
Yeah, I’m a bad mother, I’m a bad wife
You saw it on the socials, you read it online
If you go on record, saying that you know me
Then why am I so lonely
‘Cos nobody fxxkin’ phones me
Don’t see me telling you what to do
Why do you scrutinize my every move?
And what exactly are you trying to prove
When what you say’s so far away from the truth?
You say you see how I move
Tell me then, then
Don’t act like you’ve been here too
Come on then, then
Since you know so much about me
Put your money where your mouth is…
Trop-bop album track “Waste” segued into Aught Pop canon, “LDN,” a tune whose surgically-precise observation, from the vantage of a Millennial denizen, noted proper nod to Allen’s formative knack for scribing hidden-in-plain-sight Pop prophecy of-and-within the contemporary Scene pantheon.
When you look with your eyes, everything seems nice… but if you look twice, you can see it’s all lies
“What You Waiting For?”’s lush-ska tempo struck like a seamless jab into right-hook throwback classic, “Knock ‘Em Out.” Alright, Still’s deep-cut cornerstone held its own as catalyst for a full-stop karaoke rendezvous between Lily and the whole-whole floor crew.
Minimal staging, stark lighting, resonant acoustics, and disarming… humanness, for lack of a better term, generated a tangible connection between the artist and her audience; the tipping point of said energetic crescendo, into a proper fourth-wall dissolve, likely happened just beyond the break of “Lost My Mind,” at the brink of that genesis-of-the-thus-thisness “Smile.”
Breaking beats and giving thanks to the ladies in attendance from Icebox jewelers, Lily served up the polar-fresh “Party Line,” a yet-to-be-released staccato groove-bop stinger, before delivering her rapt rendition of Lykke Li’s pulsing dose of sonic nocturnal: “deep end.” Spotlights dimmed and neon strobed, in tandem with tempos, channeling far from the shallow and pacing for a deeper delve into the subtle substance of No Shame’s soul.
It was in such transitions where the sense of symphonic camaraderie felt most palpable, as if each chord progression, each instance of definitive harmony, each shared lyrical exchange, elevated the energy and bridged any rifts within the encompassing space. “Pushing Up Daisies,” “Three,” and “Everything to Feel Something” faded lingering facades, and raised a proverbial glass – mug, rather #whatupmuglife – to the overarching narrative of evolution. Lily’s fundamental development as a human being – a partner, a mother, one’s own best friend, conflicted comrade and worst critic – conveyed distinctly within the reminiscent trilogy, and found striking resonance throughout the show.
Songstress-as-Scene-Pop-oracle returned in full-effect on the self-prophesying wings of “The Fear.” Sometimes, you take a moment to mull for a split-second, metaphorical analogies (maybe not you-you, but the general potential “you;” well, I do, anyway, moving on); watching Lily Allen perform “The Fear,” live, in 2018, in cosmicpolitan neon 31st-century fly-girl gear is one of said moments; Lily as Motherboard-of-the-MySpace Generation is one of said metaphorical analogies. We’re all just kids on this cosmic playground of life, some of us kids happen to have kids, Lily is one of said kids; significant elements of her tracklist also happened to have clearly defined culture in the then-future-now-present digital age of *gestures broadly at immediate hyperreality:* thus, the motherboard.
Started from the bottom, shot the fear, now settled in the castle, yet somehow still wondering how in the world we got here… “Higher,” with its ephemeral spoken-word inquisitions immersed in echoing reverb beneath muted percussion and layered acoustics, and the pure sapience of “Family Man”’s terminal reckoning, illuminated the salve in surrender. Surrender, not as an act of giving up, rather giving in to recognizing the crucible of matrimony when said course has met its season’s end. Onward through the unpredictable curves in said life’s roads, the It’s Not Me, It’s You duo “Who’d Have Known?” and “Not Fair,” nestled aptly as a fitting capstone to the set and compliment to the Southern ambiance, balancing the tone for an escalating encore trifecta.
Fresh off the Mercury Prize stage, “Apples” captured the crowd in its humble strength; the steady linger of an unassuming ebb-and-flow tandem between melody and memoir of gravitational revelation. Said apple then dropped into the bombastic flair of an undeniable can’t-hang-with-the-cool-gang crowd-favorite, No Shame’s lead single, “Trigger Bang.” Pop scribe prophecy returned to the setlist once more with the funny-because-it’s-true-(again)-funnier-if-it-weren’t-but-it’s-all-cycles-and-seasons-in-the-political-panopticon anthem, “Fxxk You.” The South rose against its own stereotype to close out the show in panoramic unison, amplifying Lily’s lyrical opposition to incumbent establishment with resounding fervor in a most-apropos finale.
The Score: Lily is a bit of a living riff: rhythms and rhymes roaming from place to place in a synchronous harmony evolving in its own unfolding. You follow this path; you hang onto every word, without necessarily holding any direct cognition of where any of said journey is headed. Low-and-behold, the epic reveals itself at the punchline, only to open the door to yet another pathway.
The No Shame Tour, live at Buckhead Theatre, was a time capsule; everyone vibed on the same frequency, regardless of geographic origin. It felt like a humble homecoming for those niche Millennial Pop natives who happen to end up wherever said rhythm leads… The messenger-muse bathed in neon black light attire, striding from stage left to stage right, riffing on Londontown, life amidst the social rounds, taking on The Fear from the battlefield that is fame, ebbs and flows of political regression, but inevitably, the narrative maintains: flaws and all, there is no shame in translating the story of stellar evolution through this modern human condition. Amidst the company of motley camaraderie within the walls of a makeshift real-life MySpace, so long as we’re all here, that humble present feels alright, still.