Live Review: Lloyd Cole (solo), Theatre Royal, Hobart, 10.12.23

Feature Photograph: Arun Kendall

Lloyd Cole had a rather bad start to his Australian tour commencing in Hobart. He recounts that he had arrived a few days early to have a quick break in Hobart (Cole enjoys a game of golf), but the national carrier had decided to send his two guitars on their own solo tour elsewhere in Australia. Consequently he had spent the time trying to find them and had to rely on contacts of contacts to pull strings to retrieve them. The guitars had only arrived at 3pm on the day of the gig and Cole apologised that with that trauma and a sore throat, he was a bit frazzled. Consummate professional that he is, this did not translate into his mesmerising performance.

Cole spent just under two hours performing solo – a mighty feat, and, as a sign of his skills, the gig felt like it passed in seconds. The setlist was of course peppered with songs from his heydays in the eighties with the Commotions, but, significantly, this was mere seasoning to an uniformly brilliant set from his extensive career. It was a gig filled with sparkling jewels, emphasising my much used adage that creativity has no use-by date.

Indeed, Cole’s later solo material has always displayed the same level of lyrical mastery and melody that first brought him to prominence with the album ‘Rattlesnakes’, but without the same level of commercial success. He ruefully acknowledges that one song, ‘Woman In Bar’, was released in 2006 when I achieved peak invisibility. There is a wry acceptance that the old hits from the Commotions get the loudest response – we were treated to ‘Cut Me Down’, ‘Why I Love Country Music’, ‘2cv’,’Right’ ‘Rattlesnakes’, ‘Cut Me Down’, ‘ Brand New Friend’, ‘Are You Ready To Be Heartbroken’, ‘Jennifer She Said’ and ‘Forest Fire’ from Lloyd Cole and The Commotions’ purple patch in the eighties. ‘Forest Fire’, delivered as the final song in the encore, was exquisite: showcasing the fact that Cole’s voice is as acrobatic and distinctive as ever.

In fact Cole’s solo performance overall was transfixing – his jingle jangle guitar playing seemingly magically producing orchestral layers at times, his fingers dancing over the fretboard creating a multitude of melodic riffs, and his voice exhibiting a powerful range. This came to fore in his only cover, Bowie’s ‘Can You Hear Me’, clearly a personal favourite and delivered with passion and gusto.

Two songs featured from Coles recent synth heavy album, ‘On Pain’ – the title track and ‘The Idiot’, and they were augmented by the acoustic delivery. During the latter, Cole corralled the audience into providing the backing vocals – a very touching moment. There were some very powerful singers in the intimate venue.

A highlight of the set was the glorious ‘Myrtle And ‘Rose’ from the magnificent album ‘Standards’ (the only song he wrote, Cole ruefully says, that his mother ever said she liked). He also played ‘My Alibi’ and ‘My Other Life’ from the magnificent ‘Music In A Foreign Language’.

Other songs played included ‘Undressed’, Butterfly’, ‘Diminished Ex’, Violins. ‘The Young Idealists’ and ‘If I Were A Song’.

A forty year career delivered in two hours with a wry sense of humour, eloquence and an enchanting performance.

Cole’s magnetic presence and the strength of his material from throughout his career made for a magnificent night. I would urge anyone who appreciates good music to go and support this talented and iconic artist on his Australian tour – details below and tickets available here.

Feature Photograph: Arun Kendall

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