Lloyd Cole @ Dunstan Playhouse, Adelaide 12/12/2019

Following on from the conversational seminar Lloyd Cole: on music from singles to Spotify in 2014 and the Retrospective tour in 2017 after which he exhibited his Identity vs. Noise: 1Dn modular synthesizer sound installation, this is Lloyd’s third visit to Adelaide in recent years. While on the previous Retrospective tour he was playing from songs from 1983 to 1996, this show is billed as from Rattlesnakes to Guesswork and encompasses his entire thirty five year career.

With a brief, simple greeting and the opening lyric “Excuse me…”, Lloyd commences his performance. There are a couple of songs played before he announces to the audience, “You’re not getting any younger either” referencing the lyrical content of the first two songs Past Imperfect and Kids Today, setting the theme for the evening early on, his (and our) encroaching older age which he returns to both in and between songs. He continues with Rattlesnakes and then Music in a Foreign Language before addressing some latecomers with “If you have just arrived then you’ve only missed Rattlesnakes” (although you are reading this, it will still be funny when he does it at your concert) and he recommends they follow him on Twitter for the set times. Incidentally, for anyone who has been following on Twitter, there is no mention made tonight of the recently returned suitcase of equipment and clothes previously lost in transit by Virgin Airlines.

Free of the constraints of the at times dated production and even a full band, these intimate, unadorned performances of familiar songs by the Commotions and Lloyd’s lesser known latter solo output are welcomed by the audience. While some songs work better than others in the acoustic context, it is an interesting aside that the latest songs from Guesswork differ significantly from the recorded Kraftwerkian electronic counterparts and it is quite likely that this is the first time this audience would have heard them performed live. These spare, relaxed performances are interspersed with droll asides that although they sound fresh and spontaneous have probably been told similarly many times before, such as “I know I look stern. That’s just my face. When I try to look natural I look angry”.

He prefaces the rest of the evening by stating that he is his own opening act, stating the schedule for the evening (two sets and a post concert signing) including that an “old friend” will join him later. The ground rules are also clarified in that he frowns upon certain audience participation, specifically drumming, but encourages the audience to “knock yourselves out. Have a good time. Just control yourselves”.

In the second set the Commotions’ Neil Clark joins him and they commence with Are You Ready To Be Heartbroken to a grateful audience. Women’s Studies sounds almost country and is played into The Over Under which is spare and experimental in its execution. It could be described as prog-country especially with regard to an extended instrumental break. There are a couple of medleys, the last of which includes Why I Love Country Music and the self-referencing Like A Broken Record, after which Lloyd clarifies to the “young aspiring musicians in the audience” that “medley’s are illegal until you’re 45”.

During the performance of Weeping Wine, the meta lyric of the title brings to mind that his youthful yelp has almost been replaced and his vocal style is now less Lawrence from Felt (there’s an obscure reference) now that his voice has fully broken and is more towards the baritone of his former contemporary Morrissey although sometimes the needle on the barometer does flicker back to the left.

Following on from Jennifer She Said with obligatory audience participation and 2cv, there is a return to the theme of age and decline when Lloyd states, “I used to have guitar tuner on the floor like Neil but I can no longer see down there”. He says they are moving into a mellow phase although it is more likely he means more autobiographical songs referring to his age such as Period Piece.

He continues to address this issue with Woman In A Bar (“A few moving parts need to be replaced. The engine starts but only on Tuesdays”) followed Ice Cream Girl, moving from 1990 when he had his greatest exposure to 2006, the year of his greatest invisibility (his description) to play Myrtle and Rose. He informs us afterwards that every time he sings “then it was time for me to come a’ calling at your window” he wants to yell, “Stella!” (another reference to On the Waterfront?) and “that song has been in hibernation for 30 years”.

Night Sweats has a false start that sounds like a sped up song by Simon and Garfunkel before Lloyd replaces his capo and the song progresses with a Rolling Stones sound similar to Wild Horses. His staccato vocal style utilised is not unlike a rap and Neil contributes an Edge-like guitar solo. This is followed by another new song, Violins, these being examples where the more recent material from Guesswork is at times is less recognisable in the reconfigured acoustic arrangements.

He returns to where it began with a sequence of songs from the Commotions, Hey Rusty coming to a close with a reprise of the wordless vocal refrain from Bruce Springsteen’s Born to Run (an unspoken acknowledgement of influence) and there is some added guitar noodling to Perfect Skin then Lost Weekend before Lloyd and Neil leave the stage. They return for an encore starting with No Blue Skies, the only other song played from his 1990 self-titled solo debut. The final song Forest Fire is less a Marvin Gaye soul-funk exercise in this context than the original we are familiar with. These two songs bring the show to a satisfying conclusion after more than thirty songs and a two hour playing time not including intermission. Not bad considering the commentary made throughout the evening by the 58 year old Lloyd jokingly referring to his age and decline.

Live Review By Jason Leigh

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