Lily Allen, Hero at Hiro

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Allen onstage at Hiro last night. Photo: John Martin


Lily Allen, the buzzy British singer newly signed to Capitol, had her American premiere in the lantern-bedecked Hiro Ballroom last night, and a hopped-up crowd of well-heeled indie types, industry honchos, and more than a few suburban dads packed the Maritime Hotel space for the experience. The British songstress-of-the-moment was scheduled to take the stage at 10, and by 9:30, it was nearly impossible to find an available line of sight to the stage anywhere in the packed, overly small venue.

Impressively enthusiastic D.J. and hype-man Mark Ronson busily whipped the crowd into a vodka-fueled frenzy with countdowns to the moment when the diminutive singer would take the stage and promises of the impending "awesome"-ness of the event. Franz Ferdinand singer Alex Kapranos momentarily stole the spotlight by arriving with girlfriend Eleanor Friedberger, of the Fiery Furnaces, but quickly disappeared into the overheated mob. With all eyes glues firmly to the stage, the impossibly tiny Allen finally meandered out, preceded by a jubilant three-man brass section and a bassist. Clad in a hipster-appropriate black-and-white dress and draped with oversize gold jewelry, she proceeded to put on one of the most enchanting performances — debut or otherwise — in recent memory.

Allen launched straight into the first two rapturously received songs of her whimsical, ska-tinged set ("LDN" and "Nan, You're a Window Shopper") before pausing to address the crowd, getting laughs after thanking Ronson for agreeing to set the stage "and not for his usual $3,000 a night plus tax." Mark "the Cobrasnake" Hunter made a late entrance and wove through the crowd mid-set, inspiring the inevitable neck-craning to see if his underage "It" girl sidekick Cory Kennedy was in tow. (Not this time.) By the end of the night, even the balcony VIPs and bottle-service crowd on the fringes were out of their seats and straining for a better view. Just as the frenzy reached its highest pitch, Allen launched into her final song of the night ("I suppose this is the song that you've all been waiting for … " she teased): her chart-topping single, "Smile," from the album Alright, Still, which gets its U.S. release in January.

After a brief encore, Ronson cued up the first chords of "Sweet Dreams" to signal the end of the affair. The breathless crowd began the slow file out the door, and they headed around the corner to the Manor, for the after-party.

Sara Cardace