Review: Lloyd Cole

Lloyd Cole's acoustic set took the Queen's Hall audience back to their youth.
Lloyd Cole's acoustic set took the Queen's Hall audience back to their youth.
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Lloyd Cole looks good for his age, even if he did stroll on stage in the fashion crime of ‘double denim’.

Queen’s Hall, Clerk Street

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It’s more than 30 years since his breakthrough with the Commotions, and other than that thick mop of floppy black hair having turned grey, the dash he cuts is as cool as ever. He self-consciously tells the Queen’s Hall audience that he’s become “podgy”, but the truth is, Lloyd, that you never did look like you would waste away.

Age was the theme of Thursday night, and his opening remarks as he cast an eye over the audience were a hint of what was to come: “You’re not getting any younger...”

It’s true that there can’t have been many in attendance under the age of 40, and most would have been quite content to learn that the evening was a retrospective. As a box set of Lloyd’s solo material takes shape, the singer/songwriter says he has been “spending a lot of time looking backwards ... and if ever there was a time to play old songs, it’s now”.

He also spent a lot of time looking for his specs, which he retrieved from a table between songs to help him tune his guitar, then promptly removed them when he was ready to go again.

And then there was the trademark floppy hair, which Lloyd claimed is “all I have left”. Frequently putting on and taking off his glasses, we were told, created “wings” which had to be flattened down, otherwise “they make me look like Michael Heseltine, and that’s not a good look”.

But it took only a few lines of opening song Patience for Lloyd’s distinctive voice to make the years fall away. An acoustic set presents a challenge to do justice to songs like Lost Weekend, shorn of the pop vibe of the Commotions, yet the strength of Lloyd’s vocal carries all those hits and takes them to new places.

Perfect Blue and Rattlesnakes were stand-outs in the first hour, with My Bag lifting the pace, before Jennifer She Said – “I feel far too old to be singing this” – almost had the staid audience tapping their feet ahead of the, ahem, interval.

Then a strange thing happened. When he returned for the second half of the gig, Lloyd was joined on stage by his son William on second guitar, a dead ringer for his father in the 1980s, and the young lad’s old man aged visibly before our eyes.

Just 20 minutes earlier we had told ourselves that Lloyd hadn’t aged a bit, but now we had overwhelming evidence to the contrary.

But father and son were a joy to watch together, even if the family affair presents a dilemma for Cole senior. “This feels weird,” admitted Lloyd, “playing songs about your ex-girlfriends with your son.”

Young William didn’t seem to mind, and nor did we, even if the songs were necessarily shorter than the originals, and ended too soon. Which was a bit like the gig itself, when the sublime Forest Fire sent some home feeling younger, some feeling older, but all feeling wistful. Floppy, in fact.