English musician Lloyd Cole played an excellent solo gig at the Theatre Royal in Castlemaine on Saturday night. He said he liked playing in the old building, and the acoustics were good, but his sound engineer had a problem with the acoustics of the foldback speakers and so they weren’t used. Cole explained that he was hearing what the audience was hearing, and that may have been why it was adequately amplified but not particularly loud.
He played songs from throughout his career including several from his last album and a few covers, including Leonard Cohen’s Chelsea Hotel, one by Roy Orbison and an unfamiliar Keith Richards song. Several songs made unflattering reference to Los Angeles. I wonder if Cole had been hanging out with Brett Easton Ellis.
When one woman tried to sing along out of time and out of tune he stopped and said ‘I would like you to have as good a time as possible, but if I can’t hear myself I will get very cross.’ He came over as a bit like a jaded teacher scolding the unruly kids up the back of the class. He offered to sign ‘anything inanimate’ after the gig, commenting that signing ‘anything’ stopped being fun years ago.
He spoke about developing a different impression of the songs he wrote in his youth, and how he now sympathises with their middle aged characters rather than their youthful narrators. At one point towards the end of the gig he commented that it was about now in the evening that his audience started checking their phones for text messages from their babysitters.
There were no technological tricks to supplement Cole’s competent rhythm guitar playing. Before one song he explained that he would start with the arpeggio but would then switch to playing the chords while he sang as it was too hard to do both at the same time. Other artists now commonly play the arpeggio, sample and loop it, then play the chords and sing, but Cole is evidently happy keeping it simple.
New songs ‘Period piece’, ‘Myrtle and Rose’ and ‘Kids Today’ were great, with the latter containing a nice lyrical reference to David Bowie’s ‘All the Young Dudes’. I’m impressed when I see acts I loved long ago still sounding original and producing good new songs. It’s easy to give in to nostalgia, and he got the biggest applause for old songs like ‘Cut me Down’ and ‘Perfect Skin’, but it’s better still to maintain your style regardless of whether you’re in fashion.