There is a sound that a musician enjoys more than applause, more than cheers at the end of a song. It’s the sound of silence as they perform. It’s a sign that the audience are listening to, rather than just hearing the music. It was a mark of the reverence in which the Newcastle audience hold Cole’s songs, that for 90% of the show tonight at the Tyne Theatre & Opera House, you could hear a pin drop. Sadly, it was perhaps the other 10% that will colour Cole’s view of proceedings. “These are acoustic instruments. I’m finding it difficult tonight” was Cole’s response to chattering amongst the front row. However, it would be remiss of me to concentrate on that, when this was such a compelling show.
Lloyd Cole takes to the stage wearing the ‘double denim’ look. Not what you’d generally expect from the usually immaculately styled artist, but who am I to argue? I’ll be down at the Levis store first thing in the morning (other denims are available). This is to be a stripped down performance, and kicking things off with ‘Patience,’ Lloyd begins the first half of his show. Solo and acoustic versions of his back catalogue from 1984 -1996.
The hair may be greyer, and the eyesight in decline (Cole repeatedly puts his glasses on for re-tuning between songs), but that velvet smooth voice remains. It’s as affecting as ever, and the sparse arrangements, freed from their 1980’s production values actually benefit Cole’s bruised laments.
Cole is certainly out to provide value for money, cramming in songs. ‘Rattlesnakes’ and ‘Perfect Blue’ from his days of recording with The Commotions and ‘Loveless’ and ‘Butterfly’ from his solo output amongst many others that come and go in a whirlwind. ‘Downtown’ is about his many years of living in New York (he still resides in the U.S) and is a highlight, but he closes his first set with crowd favourite ‘Jennifer She Said’. The largely 40+ audience sing along as we head into the interval.
For the second half of the show, Cole is accompanied on stage by his son William. Following in his fathers’ footsteps, he is already an accomplished guitarist and his acoustic strumming adds some depth for the remainder of the performance. The duo open with ‘Don’t Look Back’. The lyrics and even title are steeped in poignancy. “Life seems never-ending, when you’re young” sings Cole snr, as his son, looking every bit like a younger mop top version of his father stands several feet behind in understated accompaniment.
As Cole wheels out some of his big hitting songs such as ‘Perfect Skin’ and ‘Like Lovers Do’, we are reminded that the quality of his songwriting over the years has been an influence on so many of the next wave of musicians. Certainly in Scotland, the birthplace of The Commotions, where their literate jangle pop influenced bands such as Teenage Fanclub, Belle and Sebastian, and certainly Camera Obscura, who even penned the song “Lloyd, I’m Ready to be Heartbroken” in reply to a hit that’s given a terrific airing tonight.
Despite the aforementioned exchanges with a small minority of the audience, Cole returns for an encore to perform two of his biggest hits ‘Forest Fire’ and ‘Lost Weekend’. It’s been a strange sort of evening. If Cole was having difficulties then it wasn’t noticeable. As for the chatterboxes in the front row, who had perhaps started a spot of weekend drinking a little early, another lost weekend awaits.
Photographer – Matt Flynn
Part time crime-fighter and music hack, full time idiot and football obsessive.
Spent several years working in record stores in my younger days, and probably several years since nosing around them.
Liable to sing Neil Diamond songs at karaoke if left unattended.
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