Concert Review: Lloyd Cole s Small Ensemble

Lloyd Cole’s Small Ensemble

Beck’s Music Box

Even though he was nursing a suspected broken rib, charming Massachusetts- based UK troubadour Lloyd Cole bravely performed his full set on Thursday night.

Cole quipped at the end of the two hour show that if he went on any longer audience members might start getting texts from anxious babysitters.

Having recently shaken off the solo tag, Cole was flanked by the proficient Small Ensemble, comprising guitarists Matt Cullen and Mark Schwaber – who also swapped on mandolin and banjo. They magically transformed the retro-pop Commotions classics, songs from his solo albums and tracks from the excellent new CD Broken Record into gentle folk/country flavoured ballads.

Opening with the slow-burning No Blue Skies from Cole’s 1990 debut solo album, there was no mistaking the bed-sit bard’s melodious voice that, after all these years, still manages to be both warmly inviting and wearily cynical.

Favourites such as Like Lovers Do, Rattlesnakes and Are You Ready To Be Heartbroken were juxtaposed with Margot’s Waltz, Trigger Happy, My Other Life, I’m Gone, Woman In A Bar and My Alibi.

He joked with the audience and occasionally clutched his injured side and winced with pain. “So far the drugs are good,” he exclaimed. “You’ve got excellent hospitals here.”

Cole’s unique knack of marrying music with amazing words was evident right from the start and didn’t let up all night. The 60s-flavoured 2CV was a standout.

Another highlight was the medley of Tim Hardin’s The Lady Came From Baltimore and Reason To Believe, both sublimely played with strummed and fingerpicked guitars and mandolin.

No pretence was made about reproducing the recorded sound of bulletproof 80s classics Perfect Skin, Lost Weekend and Forest Fire.

When they were stripped back to their bare essentials the emphasis was firmly on the strong imagery, literary references and Cole’s descriptive voice.
The five selections from Broken Record were all well received, particularly the banjo-led title track and Why in the World. But the distinctive guitar lick and infectious melody of Writers Retreat – a mid-paced ballad with a Maggie May-like mandolin refrain – make it one of Cole’s most impressive songs of recent years.

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Publication: the West

Publication date: 20/02/11