Lily Allen Swings Into H-town (Sans Trapeze)

Lily Allen donned a fan's sombrero to close her show with a special dedication
Lily Allen donned a fan's sombrero to close her show with a special dedication Photo by Jesse Sendejas Jr
Lily Allen
House of Blues
October 13, 2018

Last night, Lily Allen seemed pretty thrilled to be in Houston, or "H-town" as she correctly referred to this locale. She was literally glowing (okay, it was just her neon bright, glow-in-the-dark eye shadow). She was in the friendly and familiar confines of House of Blues and the fans who gathered were generous with their cheers and chants of "Lily! Lily!" She felt comfortable enough to tell the gang that her first-ever appearance at ACL Music Festival the day before got a less-than-stellar review by some Austin critic.

"They said, 'She just walks up and down the stage singing,'" and the crowd booed and hissed at their new enemy, a nameless, faceless music scribe a couple hundred miles away. As if the writer was within earshot, Allen snarked, "You're right. I did forget my trapeze and my magic box."

Well, maybe she forgot her trapeze. (Or, maybe Pink borrowed it). Nevertheless, she was a bit magical over the course of a 22-song set, one that began with the first track on her latest album No Shame and ended with a special long distance dedication. Along the way, she was chatty and friendly with the crowd and they showed their love in return.

"Come On Then" opened a set that was heavy on songs from No Shame, and why not? The album contains some of Allen's strongest work in years, strong enough to garner a Mercury Prize Album of the Year nomination back home in the U.K. It's a collection of sometimes heart-wrenching, sometimes defiant tunes that explain how Allen is still standing after some years of addiction, debauchery, divorce and depression. The matters are well-chronicled in the press and Allen has written of them in a recent memoir.

But, as she told Houston Press in an interview this week, her truest emotions about her life are in her songs, the friends she's created to help her make sense of the confusion. Tunes like "Family Man," "Three" and "Apples" were highlights because they showcase the magic Allen does conjure as she "walks up and down the stage." Her voice was clear and delivered her poignant lyrics like a gut-punch. Allen is known for her honesty and some might call her an over-sharer. The way she sang these very personal lyrics for us, it's unmistakable, she wants her listeners to know what she's been through and how she's survived.

click to enlarge Allen offered nearly two dozen songs and several cuts from her new album, No Shame - PHOTO BY JESSE SENDEJAS JR.
Allen offered nearly two dozen songs and several cuts from her new album, No Shame
Photo by Jesse Sendejas Jr.

There were old favorites, too and the crowd gushed for songs from her debut effort, Alright, Still. "Smile," her breakthrough hit, the jaunty and cleverly disturbing "LDN" and "Knock 'Em Out" all played well.  The only album that didn't get any representation at last night's show was 2014's Sheezus. Allen's indicated that album and tour came at the height of her difficulties so maybe that's an explanation of sorts for why "Hard Out Here," her stinging face-slap against sexism, was missing from the set.

Not that the night went entirely without some social commentary. A fan passed a sombrero up to the stage at the end of the night and Allen obliged, asking which end was which and wondering aloud if her head was too big for it.

"Is this hat Mexican? It's quite fitting for this next song," she said, preparing for the final song of the night. "This next song, I wrote it about ten years ago for an old president of yours. But I kind of feel like that president is not quite as bad as your current president. He's not very nice about Mexicans. I wanna do this song for you Donald, in this Mexican hat. It's called 'Fuck You.'"

The crowd erupted in a mixture of laughter and cheers and sang along while offering the single-finger salute at the chorus. That unapologetic, scathing wit is what fans have come to expect from Allen and she delivered a few doses in and in-between songs last night. No smoke, mirrors or trapezes required.

Personal Bias: The crowd and I made the most noise for "The Fear," from It's Not Me, It's You.

The Crowd: When the show was done, Allen came out to the merch table to sign items and meet fans. The fans formed a line that snaked around House of Blues' main showroom. People chatted anxiously and walked away from the table with starstruck looks and/or wide grins.

Random Notebook Dump: We joined the line for the after-show meet and greet and while there we brought up the Astros game on Hulu live on my wife's iPhone. I remember having to walk three blocks away from The Summit to find a payphone to call my folks for a ride after I saw Ozzy Osbourne play once. Last night, I was able to watch an Astros playoff game in real time on a telephone. What a time to be alive.

Lily Allen Set List

Come On Then



My One

What You Waiting For?

Knock 'Em Out

Lost My Mind


Party Line

Always On a Mountain (Merle Haggard cover)

Deep End (Lykke Li cover)

Pushing Up Daisies


Everything To Feel Something

The Fear


Family Man

Who'd Have Known

Not Fair


Trigger Bang

Fuck You
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Jesse’s been writing for the Houston Press since 2013. His work has appeared elsewhere, notably on the desk of the English teacher of his high school girlfriend, Tish. The teacher recognized Jesse’s writing and gave Tish a failing grade for the essay. Tish and Jesse celebrated their 33rd anniversary as a couple in October.