YOU know times have changed when Lloyd Cole walks on for his first Brisbane concert in 15 years and tells the sold-out crowd to ring the babysitters, we could be here for a while.

The engaging Cole looks reassuringly undamaged for a man approaching 40, and the bittersweet melancholy of his tunes are standing the test of time equally well. Good songs last the distance, long after bands, hype and chart success have faded.

The English-born, Massachusetts-resident songwriter admitted he didn’t mind indulging in nostalgia even if he didn’t necessarily approve, and this two-set solo show demonstrated that there is plenty more to the Cole catalogue than his ’80s hits with the Commotions.

Naturally, favourites like Lost Weekend and Are You Ready to be Heartbroken? were welcomed like long-lost friends, and as the clock ticked toward midnight he even delivered Forest Fire on request for a woman whose sitter could wait no longer.

Songs like Sentimental Fool showed what the masses have been missing out on in his solo years, and new tunes like The Impossible Girl are ample demonstration that there is plenty of creative fire still burning.

Cole also must have the kind of record collection you would love to spend an evening with, judging by an impeccable choice of covers which ranged from Leonard Cohen’s Chelsea Hotel to Nick Cave’s People Ain’t No Good and Dylan’s You’re a Big Girl Now (dedicated to Robert Forster).

If there were quibbles they would be that two hours on stage in the Brisbane heat can be an endurance test and that the stage sound didn’t carry to the back of the room.

But this toe-in-the-water tour shows there are many who still love these songs — let’s hope we don’t have to wait another 15 years before he plays them for us again.

Chuck Jenkins of Icecream Hands also delivered a fine support set, with hook-laden hits-in-waiting like Spiritlevel Windowsill and Nipple demonstrating that this is one of the best songwriters to emerge in this part of the world since Neil Finn. One to look forward to: a great new tune possibly called Keeping the Cannonballs Clean, inspired by his hero Spike Milligan.

A Christmas wish: peace on Earth and more music this good on the radio.

Publication: Courier Mail (Queensland, Australia)

Publication date: 30/11/00