Lloyd Cole is an artist I have been aware of by name if not output, never quite appearing above my musical radar. Not having a really big hit probably hasn't helped (even in the Lloyd Cole & The Commotions days in the 1980's he didn't break the Top 10) and he's always been authentic if never really fashionable.
I took a trip last week to Cambridge to see him perform. I've been to the city before and had hoped that the venue would be amongst historical buildings with some character, providing some culture to suit my increasingly snobbish nature. Sadly, it could have been in any soulless metropolitan retail / entertainment area in the UK, nestled amongst a chain cinema, a Nandos and a Travelodge. A shame. The venue itself though has some modern charm. The Junction 2 in Clifton Way is a small (they doubtless prefer to describe it as intimate) theatre with a seated capacity of no more than about 200-300.
Lloyd largely performs these days alone with an acoustic guitar, and if not exactly a reinvention of himself he now plays his sets in a folky singer/songwriter style and seems comfortable with it. Perfectly suited for the venue too.
The crowd was a predictable bunch of fortysomethings, many of whom seemed to be regular Cole followers. This qualified me to feel young for a change if only just, although as a counter balance I noted that 1) after my haircut earlier in the day I had observed a higher number of grey hairs on the barbershop floor and 2) I was attending my first ever gig which had an interval.
Putting a break into a solo performance is however a very good idea, particularly for the non-devoted, as I was able to appreciate all of the songs with no danger of attention deficit.
Having taken a crash course in his back catalogue prior to the show I was familiar with a few of the songs, which sounded gorgeous in their acoustic form – the crowd seemed particularly pleased with the oldies - Rattlesnakes, Are You Ready To Be Heartbroken? and the encore of Jennifer She Said. The highlights for me were the simplistic beauty of Like Lovers Do and Music In A Foreign Language.
There were a number of covers including Leonard Cohen's Tower Of Song, of which Cole humbly hoped he was of sufficient artistic maturity to justify performing. He was.
He has a refined, unassuming stage presence which seems to delight his audience. He was strangely self-critical of his guitar playing but it seemed highly proficient to these ears. The distraction of the ongoing Champions League semi-final taking place in Barcelona became a running joke and an audience member who announced the final score was politely mocked for 'obviously having not paid attention' to the performance on stage.
The acoustic setting allowed for the lyrics to receive my scrutiny. Often simple, with standard singer / songwriter themes of introspection and relationship misunderstandings. I noted doses of Americana commentary (Cole now lives in the States) and resigned regret. I've found a youtube clip of What's Wrong With This Picture? which gives the general idea.
He is promoting a couple of live CDs and Cleaning Out the Ashtrays - a 4 CD box set collection of b-sides / rarities. I was sufficiently impressed with the show that I bought the latter, which Lloyd signed for me.
Top bloke and a top night out. He is frequently on tour and I would recommend that you catch him if you get the chance.