Lloyd Cole has the uncanny ability to make rational argument evaporate faster than Mexican snow. Like Sinead O’Connor, JFK assassination theories and brocolli, he’s a fast way to turn a reasonable discussion into a fistfight.

To some, he’s a cantankerous pop star prone to committing New Age no-no’s like writing a song called “She’s A Girl And I’m A Man”, while to others he’s a brilliant lyricist with a near-supernatural voice and sharp wit.

Last night at the Palladium, Cole was nothing short of miraculous.

As he slouched onstage, scowl nailed in place, he was expecting the worst: “It wouldn’t hurt to you to move up front,” he snapped, dripping British disdain as he tore into an early Commotions song and made it shimmer and burn even brighter than it did way back on his classic Rattlesnakes album.

Then suddenly, an avalanche of cheers and whistles hit him, and his face registered total shock. He grinned, unzipped his cynic suit, and revealed the amiable chap underneath with a surprised “Thank you, you’re so kind.”

From then on, he cut loose with one sharp pop song after the other -“Weeping Wine”, “Mr. Malcontent”, “Perfect Skin”.

Telling moment of the evening came as he smiled bashfully and said “This is the first good mood I’ve been in all week. I can’t believe it, but thanks.”

He wrapped up with a storming Leonard Cohen cover, obviously enjoying every minor chord riff of it, knowing that the next night he’d go on to indifferent audiences and more critical slagging. But that dumbfounded smile as he walked off stage said he knew that this one gig, the deservedly deafening cheers, would see him through 50 Scrooges worth of bad moods. God bless ya, Lloyd!

Publication: The Toronto Star

Publication date: 16/12/91