Lilly Allen / Bird & The Bee - Manchester Apollo - 10.3.07

The Bird and The Bee are very much in the style of Mike Flowers Pops given a female touch, but without the tweeness of the Pipettes. With a loungecore vibe, the band perform very floaty, summery songs in a retro 60s fashion with touches of jazz. "Would You Ever Be My F**king Boyfriend" is sung so sweetly despite the provocative language. There's a folky tinge to the vocal and a wonderful use of xylophone. The harmonies are faultless and the robotic dancing is hilarious on "Because Because". A straight cover of "Do You Know The Way To San Jose" is well received and adds to the kitsch entertainment value the band provides.

The Manchester Apollo is completely sold out, fans have dressed up to emulate their chavesque heroine and chants of Lilly can be heard throughout the venue. Designer Magazine notice a very young fan base with parents in tow (far different from when Lilly Allen played the Academy last year and surprising considering the adult nature of the album, but it's still great pop music which kids love).

The brass section strike up the opening bars to "LDN" and Lilly adorable in flowing dress and trainers is much more animated and confident than she was on last years tour. She play's to the galleries, drinking and smoking despite announcing to everyone that her voice is fading and is feeling a tad hoarse. Lilly confesses that the previous night she'd lost her voice in Glasgow and had to abstain from talking for a full day in order to perform. Imagine that. It can't have been easy for Lilly Allen to keep her mouth shut.

During "Littlest Things", the ballad which samples the piano parts from the film Emmanuelle, the glitter ball rotates and Lilly proves that yes, she can really singe live, very well in fact. Parents cower in shock and the young children look puzzled as Lilly tells the crowd that "Not Big" is all about guys with small dicks. "Sunday morning", a track not on "Alright, Still...." album has quite a hard rocky style and a mood reminiscent of Portishead. Regal should seriously consider putting this out as a single as soon as possible. A very jazzy, calypso beat version of Blondie's "Heart of Glass" has the crowd clapping along. Is there anyone out there who doesn't love this track? Fab new track "Absolutely Nothing" is a ballad dripping with emotion, aching with pain, laid bare and is mature without being at all bland.

Before performing her number one single "Smile" Lilly explains that a lot of the album was recorded in Manchester and if it wasn't for Bez who let her sleep on his couch the album may not have been completed and she wouldn't have be here tonight. The maraca shaking Happy Monday's icon is here tonight to receive the praise in person.

It's surprises galore during the encore as Lilly covers The Kaiser Chief's "Oh My God", The Specials "Blank Expression" and her own latest single "Alfie". She then tells us that Amy Winehouse robbed her of a Brit Award, but apparently she's only joking and lampoons Joss Stone's big love speech at the Brits. Funny but cruel but that's Lilly all over, outspoken, talented and a star.

Nicholas Paul Godkin
Photos: Shirlaine Forrest

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