A ridiculously prompt 7.30pm start means I missed the first number, but my arrival coincided with the opening notes of the classic, Perfect Skin, and warm applause rang around the majestic old church.

Tone successfully set the evening then passed in a joyous flash. Having recently forsaken the solo tag Lloyd Cole now fronts his ‘Small Ensemble’.

Billing themselves as a self-styled all acoustic ‘baby bluegrass’ trio, Cole is accompanied by expert musicians Mark Schwaber & Matt Cullen. Formed in the autumn of 2009 it is Cole’s first band since The Negatives of the late 1990s.

Cole was the only one with a mike and handled all the vocals whilst all three played guitar and at various points Cullen moved to banjo and Schwaber beautifully picked his mandolin.

Splitting the evening into two hour-long sets new album, Broken Record, formed the back bone of both together with a mixture from Coles’ extensive back catalogue.

Broken Record is an unashamedly country inflected album and live the Dylanesque Why In The World stood out as did the caustic Writers Retreat! with its wonderful Maggie May mandolin stylings.

Mid-90s offerings Trigger Happy and So You’d Like To Save The World also got the mandolin treatment and were greeted like old friends. As you’d imagine, Cole’s rich voice and gentle articulate song writing is ideally suited to the acoustic perfection that is St George’s. Once a Commotion always a Commotion and there was, of course, space for a few fan favourites.

All re-worked and slower paced, but still instantly recognisable Cole delivered beautiful mandolin enhanced versions of debut album hits Rattlesnakes and 2CV.

Are You Ready to Be Heartbroken? was as poignant as it was in 1984 and a sumptuous Forest Fire ended set two to great applause. Undressed and Lost Weekend were saved for the encore and as the reserved crowd finally perked up courage to sing along it was a fine way for the evening to end.

Publication: Crackerjack

Publication date: 03/11/10