Who the devil told Lloyd Cole he sounded like Lou Reed? Surely, even in his most lugubrious days, the similarity was teasingly absent. Now that Lloyd’s got lucky in love, ironed out the esoteric references and turned to jolly tunes about contentment and missing his babe (the toddling sort), the resemblance is even more elusive. Still, it’s there for Mr Cole.

Tonight, he regales us with a clutch of Velvets covers, which are played in eerie, Warholian shadow, infuse the set with a doomy cred and, ironically enough, pick it up from where it otherwise lies prostrate. This is not to say that, when the singer appears in the thrift-shop chic of creased shirt and pinstripe bags and launches into “Perfect Skin”, we’re not glad to hear it; no one would say the Commotions, in their heyday, didn’t deliver. It’s just that, since then, Cole has ploughed a more haphazard furrow. He’s had an easy ride with the latest LP, Love Story, the single from which, “Like Lovers Do”, is breathtakingly nondescript, though it gave the charts a fair run. Now he seems a bit confused about his own ability. Having delivered “Rock & Roll” (and, later, “New Age” from the same VU album), Cole explains that the song was written by Reed, “who not only taught me how to sing and write songs but also how to play guitar. . . ” Hmm. This isn’t borne out by much of what follows, and the Buxton boy sounds at once disarming and defensive as he introduces self-penned numbers with a mumbled, “This was slated when it came out, but I still like it” (a lumpen “So You’d Like to Save the World”), or “This one’s hidden on the B-side of a not very good album.”

It isn’t the hit-and-miss pool-hall sleaze and sentiment of the solo career but the pristine early Eighties gems that kick up the evening and allow the band to rattle their leg-irons: “Jennifer She Said”, which jangles and peals and shimmies coltishly, and “Forest Fire”, to which even the cynics mouth the words, and which allows original Commotion Neil Clark to go whacko and seduce his electric guitar. Tracks from the new LP are wisely kept to a minimum because, as the title, Be There, illustrates, that’s in a way all they are. Just. . . kinda there.

Publication: The Independent (London)

Publication date: 06/10/1995