Estelle Stumbles Around, Harangues Former Lovers, Espouses Casual Sex


Highline Ballroom
Monday, April 28

Not to belabor the point here, but triumphantly taking the stage the night before the release of her big American debut, Estelle totally almost wipes out. Severe wobbling ensues. “These are brand new heels,” she explains. “That’s what happens. Shit.”

She’s appealing though, in an Awkwardly Endearing sort of way, tiny and fiery and profoundly British, wrapped in a Fruit Stripe Gum sort of dress, half-trilling/half-rapping through her chic postmodern soul, her way-too-loud band nearly overpowering her. She manages, though, mostly via relentlessly goofy between-song banter, which often consists of her complaining about a freeloading ex-boyfriend and then announcing, “But I wrote a song about it!” Some of those songs are quite good: Shine, out on John Legend’s new label—and there he is, joining his young charge for a duet on Stevie Wonder’s “I Can’t Help It,” showing us what complete but relatively boring Command of the Stage looks like—particularly excels at pop-reggae tunes like “No Substitute Love” and “Magnificent.”

Her big quasi-hit, “American Boy,” is splendid too of course—no Kanye cameo tonight though. Too bad. Estelle herself is plenty of entertainment on her own, though, sheepish and loopy, shouting “Dag nab it!” when she gets real excited and offering up actually quite lucid dating advice: “Life is too short. You fucked up the ozone layer. If you like someone, have sex. Fuck it. Literally.”