Into Live Music Review: Lloyd Cole
Concert: Lloyd Cole
Venue: Glasgow Royal Concert Hall
Date: 15 October 2023
Date: 15 October 2023
“Hey Lloyd. Scotland have just qualified for the Euro finals in Germany!”
Probably not the normal kind of audience interaction you get at a Lloyd Cole gig, however it was well received by everyone in the room, including the great man himself.
“Aw, that’s rather lovely” was his considered response!
Lloyd Cole is a fairly frequent visitor to his adopted hometown (he formed The Commotions during his Glasgow University days), and his concerts are always well attended and appreciated. This one however, was a little bit extra special, as Cole was to be joined on stage by two of old bandmates, guitarist Neil Clark and Blair Cowan on keyboards for this tour, augmented by their friend Signy Jacobsdottir on drums.
They came on at 8pm prompt, and after playing Don’t Look Back from his self-titled debut solo album of 1990, Cole announced that, in case we hadn’t noticed, they were the support band too! The band then played a mainly stripped back acoustic first set (with Cole on acoustic guitar), mixing up a couple of newer solo tracks (the version of On Pain from his recent album of the same name was particularly good), with some Commotions classics, including the double whammy of Are You Ready To Be Heartbroken and Rattlesnakes. Not bad for a support band!
It was during this support set that I had a “something in my eye” moment. Playing a beautiful version of Why I Love Country Music from the classic 1985 Commotions album Easy Pieces that, if possible, was even more melancholic and heartbreaking than the original version, Cole sounded particularly world-weary as he delivered the line, “She is everything I need, but she would rather be any place but here“. Simply stunning.
After a 45 minute acoustic set and a brief intermission, the band returned, with Cole now on bass/electric guitar/keyboards, Neil Clark on trademark electric guitar twangs and jangles, plus a stronger keyboard/drums influence from Cowan & Jacobsdottir. And for the next hour and a bit, we were treated to musicianship of the highest order – with the band adding loop tapes, samples and electric drums to their core sound, creating sounds reminiscent of low-fi Radiohead, in addition to their classic west coast America touch points.
While it would be pushing it to say it was now a rock gig, it did create new dynamics, both on stage (Cole actually curtseyed to the crowd after Perfect Skin), and in the audience.
The Glasgow Concert Hall sound is always great, however it’s not overly conducive to audience participation. Or in Lloyd’s own words “Glasgow canny rammy in the Concert Hall“. Some of the audience took this as a personal challenge, and by the time Brand New Friend was closing the second set, a few had taken to the aisles to swing their pants.
The crowd welcomed the band back with a Barras like foot stomp, only a bit quieter! Lloyd, Neil, Blair & Signy seemed genuinely pleased with the positive appreciation from the crowd, clinking beers in salute. Cole dedicated the song Young Idealists to the volunteers who run his merch stall when on tour (nice touch), and then invited a special guest onto the stage, saying that when they played their first gigs in Glasgow around 40 years ago, the same person was on stage with them then.
Justin Currie from Del Amitri took to the stage, strapped his bass guitar on, and together they finished the gig with a wonderful version of Forest Fire. It felt like a very personal, poignant way to end proceedings, and those on the stage left together, arm in arm, like the old friends they are.
The solo album selections played this evening sounded great, and it shouldn’t be forgotten that Lloyd Cole has been a solo artist for over 30 years now, compared to around 5 years as a Commotion. However, the ten songs played tonight from The Commotions period were received with particular reverence by the partisan audience – a reflection on how much love is felt for Cole and the three albums the band released during that period.
The album Rattlesnakes, for me, one of the best 10 debut albums ever released, is forty years old in 2024. Tonight, in Glasgow, we had 60% of The Commotions sharing a stage (plus a sneaky Del Amitri add on!) . Wouldn’t it be lovely to have the full band back together in 2024 to play that album in full. Perhaps if we all click our heels three times and say ‘ there’s no place like home’ – our wish may just come true.