“I’m in peak physical condition for performing,” says Lloyd Cole to a nervous laugh from his audience. “Although let me explain what I mean by peak physical health for performing.”

A brief story follows about how a snowy Massachusetts winter has led him to drink copious amounts of beer.

The resulting extra few inches around his midriff, he says, not only foster the sense of self-loathing he requires to perform his material — but also provide a handy cushion for his guitar to rest upon. Peak physical health for performing, indeed. This snappy, funny aside is fairly typical of what Cole delivers between songs throughout the night.

And though it’s not what you might expect from a man famous for his grumpy exterior, his personable warmth — combined with the candle-lit seating and the soft blue lighting on a plain black backdrop — makes for a deliciously intimate and pleasant setting.

“No surprises tonight,” he smiles, before launching into ‘Brand New Friend’. Soon after, ‘Old Enough To Know Better’ runs into a brief rendition of The Killers’ ‘Humans or Dancers’ — no irony intended, he insists — while a powerful take on ‘Are You Ready To Be Heartbroken’ efficiently silences a crowd who might otherwise have sung along aimlessly.

The scaled-back simplicity of it all is in stark contrast to some of The Commotion’s more lavish recordings, but Cole is more than capable of holding the stage with just an acoustic guitar for company. His voice, though recovering from sickness, is strong and assured, holding melodies with barely a waver to be heard.

More importantly again, not a lyric gets lost in the mix. With songs so easy to get wrapped up in, and the perfect atmosphere in which to do so, it’s little wonder that chatter and booze are far down the list of priorities for Lloyd Cole’s attentive audience tonight.

– Aidan Coughlan

Publication: Irish Independent

Publication date: 14/05/09