Three thing we can say for certain after this evening of Lloyd Cole’s Songbook tour: we all got older, there are not many of us left, and Mr. Cole’s songs are not meant to be played on a single guitar.
We all got older, indeed. Lloyd at fifty-six still has a lot of hair, the most hair of any male in the room—what is his secret? He even mocked us by flattening his post-reading glasses "wings". Youth to spare! This proves that Lloyd, despite being the first hipster from a time when he occupied a then-niche single-handedly, has no following in the very today-scene he had helped to create in the mid-eighties. The absence of massive facial hair in the audience did not bother us at all. And it showed us that even if all of us are BOFs by now, we’ll always have him, the one prophet to look out for us and explain us the delicacies of love and life. And he takes us seriously! It was my first pop-rock-folk concert in what, twenty years?, where chairs were prepared in ten neat rows. We don’t want any cardiovascular episodes in the target group, don’t we?
I had estimated / hoped at breakfast that one-thousand people showed up, but the crowd was closer to two-hundred. A hard sell. The whole first set was basically for nothing. Not sure that it brought anything to Lloyd, it certainly didn’t bring anything to us. His songs do not have the substance to be played by a single songwriter with a laid-back attitude and a British temperament. Where a solo-guitar Billy Bragg brings an edgy aggression to the microphone, or a Ben Watts is able to generate an emotional depth with a broken voice and a minimized arrangement, Lloyd Cole’s songs are simply made to be played by a band. Period. The second half of the set was proof of that. One more guitar in play, congenially celebrated by his son Will Cole, improved the songs by 100 %. And the investment of the audience by the same amount. Too bad he hadn’t brought his current band, ‘The Leopards’, along.
And of course Lloyd Cole remained the wise-ass he had started out to be, the book-reading intellectual, writing songs with literary depth. His comments during the set were as wry as anything, his demonstration of soap opera avoidance by leaving the stage and closing some curtains in the back of the room was a little overdone. After that the audience was so shellshocked that no one dared to visit the bar during the rest of the set in fear of Lloyd taking away the drink personally. The set concentrated on the early years from 1984’s “Rattlesnakes” up to 2004’s “No more love songs” with all Commotion hits present, the first album played completely. I maybe missed some pop-cultural bits, but I caught the nice Norwegian Wood reference at the end of one song and the last bars of ‘Born to run’. Two encores, ending with a wonderful ‘Forrest Fire’ sent us on our way again.