The songwriter performs as well as he composes.
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. Actually, it was the worst of times, and then it was the best of times as the spare but rowdy audience
on hand Friday night for Lloyd Cole at Deep Ellum Live experienced two opposing takes on the rock concert.
First, they were made to suffer (or at least gab loudly) through the rock concert as a temper tantrum thrown by a churlish musician who apparently
has a few problems to work through, and then they were rewarded with the rock concert as a perfectly spinning top, as a solid jolt of light and sound,
as the only place you want to be on a night that seems suddenly boundless and full of promise.
After the opening act’s fitful departure, it took only a moment for Mr. Cole and company to obliterate any residual torpor.
What’s more, with the band’s first notes, the attention of the room was fixed absolutely on this Englishman-turned-New Yorker and his band.
Touring on his second solo album, Don’t Get Weird On Me Babe), Mr. Cole came into town for his first Dallas performance with the reputation of
being a sharp, talented, but perhaps a little too refined songwriter. It is an unarguable fact that Mr. Cole is one of the most skilled songwriters
working in the pop music genre; his lyrics have developed into fluidly vivid word-pictures, his songs are seamless streams of lush melodies and
But does he rock? Sure, he’s generally categorized as an “alternative rock’ musician, but that just shows how nonsensical the division between
mainstream and alternative has gotten in today’s marketplace.
Lloyd Cole is a musician in the old-fashioned way: He writes great songs and surrounds himself with talented musicians — how quaint. But great songs
don’t necessarily mean great rock, not to mention that his new album is evenly divided between classically streamlined guitar pop and lushly
orchestrated ballads — hardly a recipe for a night of heart-pounding rock ‘n’ roll.
And yet, that is precisely what Mr. Cole delivered. With his four-piece support, which included the guitarist and bassist from his former band, the
Commotions (making the distinction of his “solo’ status a fine one), Mr. Cole tore, wailed and soared through a concert that had the reaffirming effect
of reminding one of all the reasons why rock ‘n’ roll can be so great.
Mixing songs from his solo career with titles from his Commotions days, Mr. Cole sent his rich vocals laughingly skittering over and mournfully
winding through the pulsing sounds of the band. In a description that could have been more generally applied, Mr. Cole introduced A Long Way Down
(perhaps the most dead-on vivid depiction of “the fast lane’ ever rendered) by saying “this next song is very good; it’s almost too good.’
The final notes from the band’s closing song, Jennifer She Said, still ringing in the air, the band departed, the house came lights up. The audience
cheered for a bit longer, hesitant to start breaking up, move toward the door and complete the show’s conclusion. It seems that when you’re good,
people will pay attention to you even after you have left the stage.
The opening performers, on the other hand, had trouble capturing the audience’s attention even when they were on the stage.
The opening act consisted of G.W. McLennan and Robert Forster. Formerly the frontmen of the Go-Betweens and touring together in support of
each other’s solo album, Messrs. McLennan and Forster performed an acoustic set that, despite a few comparatively bright moments, never
threatened to intrude on any of the dozens of conversations being carried on among audience members.
To anyone present, it clearly wasn’t happening that night for the duo and their songs never really clicked.
The audience responded accordingly, the din of conversation growing as latecomers (who had no doubt counted on the opening act being finished)
began filling the club.
Mr. Forster began to seethe visibly, snarling his lyrics, pointing accusatively at offending sections of the room, making caustic between-song
remarks. As the couple ground grimly on through its set list, the audience draped the noise of their chatter over Messrs. McLennan’s and Forster’s
music like a soggy blanket.
Finally, the fuming Mr. Forster tore off his guitar with a petulant flourish, thanked the 50 or so attentive people at stagefront, issued an expletive at
the rest of the world and stormed offstage, oblivious of the natural law that says if you’re a musician and you want people to listen to your music, it is
your responsibility to be good enough to make them want to listen.
Publication: The Dallas Morning News
Publication date: 09/12/91