21 Apr 2019
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Gig Review: Lily Allen with Bene @ Spark Arena, Auckland - 2/02/2019

03 Feb 2019 // A review by Paul Goddard

Hailing from Grey Lynn and still a teenager I am guessing the nerves were pumping before Bene took the stage at Spark Arena tonight.

Making the shift from small venues like Neck of the Woods to this huge hanger is a daunting task but tonight you wouldn't have thought so. Supported by her band and dressed head to toe in an orange outfit not dissimilar to those worn in U.S. prisons she immediately commands the stage and just a couple of songs in she has connected with the audience.

A natural performer she comes across like a young Bjork. The music is catchy in a twisted pop kind of way with enough hooks and variance to keep the crowd moving. She has a great voice and a talented young band behind her. This is perfect indie pop and it is exciting. There is a growing talent pool of young New Zealanders like Bene coming through at the moment and I think she could be top of the pile.

Orange is the new All Black.

What can I say as an introduction to Lily Allen that hasn’t already been written? Her refusal to pamper to the music industry, to push boundaries and push people's buttons is well documented.

She has fought and worked hard to get here today and suffered more than her fair share of hardships not all of her own creation. The best artists in the world all suffer in some way. It’s what makes them who they are and way more interesting.

It has been a long journey from first being noticed singing Oasis song Wonderwall at school to playing arenas like tonight and Lily hasn't taken a straight forward route. I have to admit I know more about the tabloid stories than the 4 albums she has released but I am looking forward to this.

Tonight Spark has been compressed to resemble a venue about the size of Brixton Academy so Lily should feel at home. The sparse stage set up just four tower lights, no screens and no visual backdrop all adds to that club vibe.

She enters the stage dressed in what could be described as council estate bling as the PA chants Lily, Lily Lily fucking Allen. We could actually be in Brixton.

It's a mellow start with opener Come On Then which is followed by the dub reggae tinged Waste, both from her latest album No Shame. The crowd lights up as she plays early hit LDN.

We are then back onto the new album for the next three songs. No Shame overall has a mellower feel than her previous releases and whilst the crowd are loving it the first time the place really lights up is with Smile.

Lily's onstage presence is also very natural. Her moments speaking to the audience are honest, open and clearly not planned as she tells us how she went snorkeling at Goat Island and bought some throat healing drink in Matakana which she then proceeds to drink from a mug. The dry throat from the flight appears to be on her mind as she pops vocalzones (throat tablets) and sprays medicine between songs.

She needn't have worried though as her vocals tonight were excellent.

At times I felt the set didn't flow as well as it could. Just as the energy was building it dropped a little with the following songs, but everyone here tonight seemed to love it. I like that Lilly Allen wears her heart on her sleeve. The story about how 9 years ago when she was last in NZ she had a husband, 2 kids, house in the countryside and then she went and "fucked it all up" shows she is just as broken as the rest of us. She laughs and carries on. This honesty is part of her charm.

She did a great job of covering Lykke Li's Deep End and The Fear was also a stand out. The obligatory encore to end had the crowd in the seats finally up dancing. Phones were out everywhere, people filming themselves dancing, taking selfies. I think Instagram will be busy today and even though Lily Allen has a self-professed love/hate relationship with social media what gets posted online tomorrow will be all positive.


Photos courtesy of Chris Morgan Photography

 

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