A posh venue indeed for Lloyd Cole‘s return to these shores. Playing entirely solo, just voice and guitar, he doubled as support act and headliner. Cole has amassed thirteen albums over a thirty year career (excluding his forays into ambient) and he treated the crowd to selections from most of them, punctuating songs with wry, self-deprecating tales.
There always has been a degree of ‘buy-in’ necessary to really enjoy Lloyd Cole’s literary, intelligently crafted songs. From opener Past Imperfect, which nods to Cole’s past in its lyrics (“what was on my mind in Amsterdam… what did I want from the pouring rain” – refer back to some of his Commotions-era ‘hits’) the night contained a fair amount of reflection, introducing songs by describing what year he wrote them, and on Can’t Get Arrested that he “was a brilliant p***k” at that time (1993). Like Lovers Do and Myrtle & Rose got a good response despite his own admission that he was unable to play the guitar arpeggio on the latter while singing, and on Don’t Look Back he managed to achieve a human fade out. That last song gives a good indication of how he sounded: very acoustic Dylan, topped with Cole’s commanding, chocolatey vocals.
The venue felt a little over fussy to elicit major enthusiasm from the audience, the evening had more of a feeling of quietly watching a performance than participating. But this was a minor gripe. Lloyd Cole has some really fine tunes in his back catalogue and he opened the second set with arguably the loveliest of them all: the goose-bump inducing Are You Ready To Be Heartbroken. Regardless of when the songs were originally recorded, none sounded dated, they all fit well played acoustically. Music In A Foreign Language had a few people humming along before Cole implored the willing audience to singalong with Jennifer She Said. The intricate guitar of 2CV was delivered flawlessly, while the lesser known Loveless contained exactly the right amount of longing crossed with ennui.
Later in the set in his performance of Unhappy Song he revealed that it had the same chords as Simon and Garfunkel’s America to much hilarity. He finished with the poppiest moment of the evening, the clapalong Lost Weekend. An effortless encore of Bob Dylan’s I Threw It All Away was almost too clever before he finished with Forest Fire. And for some lucky fans, Lloyd Cole kept his promise to “sign ANYTHING, well anything inanimate” after the show. Rather than focusing on his 1980s Commotions material, Lloyd Cole showed that his entire back catalogue is worth checking out, and this avoided the night descending into a nostalgia-fest. Just a performance of intelligently crafted songs.