Lloyd Cole – Union Chapel, London, 17th October 2013
“What happened to my gentle downward trajectory of a career?”
Ah Lloyd Cole, with your self deprecating ways, and hush puppy shoes….it’s hard not to love you really.
The Union Chapel in Islington really could not be a more perfect venue for Lloyd Cole on this particular night and to a sold out crowd. Armed with just two acoustic guitars [which he tuned himself over the course of the evening] and no opening act, he treated us to 29 songs. Which gives you an idea of the wealth of music that he has at his command, and just how long he has ridden the roller coaster of the music business. It’s been 28 years since I first saw Mr Cole on the much beloved Top of The Pops singing ‘Lost Weekend’, sending a generation of teenage girls swooning off their chairs. The scowl is still there, although the hair may be a different colour now.
It’s hard to gauge 29 songs in two and a half hours. The classics were there along with some excellent tracks off his new album ‘Standards’ Every person the Union Chapel that night knew them, and plenty of people sang along. ‘Rattlesnakes’, ‘Perfect Skin’, ‘Jennifer She Said’ and ‘Forest Fire’ were all there. I had forgotten how funny Mr Cole was, his droll humour frequenting the songs and chat throughout the evening. He had requested that fans suggest songs for the evening, the hardcore fans battling amongst themselves to come up with the most obscure B sides they could possibly think of. Mr Cole’s response to this was “I would start playing the song, think it was pretty good, and then three quarters way through remember why it was picked as a B side”. You get the impression he is still unsure of his talents as a musician – “I only know four chords” he suggests half way through the second half. His shyness is obvious, even though he has chosen a career that demands he performs on stage to hundreds of people a night. His voice is still beautiful. It sounds like threadbare velvet, stretched but rich at the same time. When ‘No Blue Skies’ appears, I am transported back in time, it still never fails to move me. His lyrics are full of lust and longing, never overly romantic, but enough for you to realise that they come from a deeply complex man.
The hardcore fans have never left him, and never will. He is a songwriter from a generation where people created their own talent. It was never formulated, it was never forced. After a few years in the wilderness, he has reappeared with an excellent new album, sold out gigs across the UK and Europe and a legion of new fans to boot. His new lease of musical life is well deserved and I hope appreciated. He is back on the 31st January in the UK playing the Shepherds Bush Empire with The Leopards. I urge you to see him. He will always be a survivor in this business because of his level head, his ability not to take himself too seriously, and of course his musical talent. We must never forget that.
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