Oh, happy man. Or at least contented.

Few pop stars have faded from the flare-up of fame with such grace and ease as Lloyd Cole seems to have done. But then, even caught up in the glare of instant acclaim and fame, as he was in the mid-’80s fronting his band the Commotions, Cole always looked like he was wincing and wanting an immediate out.

At the Paradise Lounge on Friday night, Cole played the first show of a two-night solo stint, part of a flurry of promotional duties for his first new solo album in five years, “Music in a Foreign Language,” and the U.S. issue of two other solo records. He bore the guise of middling-aged singer-songwriter type well. But, anchored by his strong, subtly expressive voice, Cole seemed detached from that role.

Even seated and vibing an acoustic guitar into firm rolling rhythm and faint melody, the ex-pat Englishman, who has lived in Massachusetts with his family for quite some time, stood apart from the confessional set. Despite his lyrics centering on personal chats about the trite trappings of fame, as well as wry admissions of more matured personal relationships, he seemed an observer. If only consequence hadn’t added a bittersweet undertone, rendering him ultimately a protagonist.

Peeling off song after song after song, Cole peppered his ethereal midtempo musing with earthy jibes at such a self-centered lifestyle as his. Though rounder of face and grayer of hair, and the black leather rebel clobber gone, Cole still seemed distanced from the milieu and even, somewhat healthily, from his study of it.

Publication: Boston Herald

Publication date: 16/05/04