Last night the Cathedral Quarter Arts Festival kicked off in fine style, in truth Belfast revellers were spoilt for choice. Lloyd Cole brought his solo acoustic tour to the Black theatre; as a fan called out at the end of the seminal Are You Ready to be Heartbroken?, Lloyd Cole is indeed a legend. Well, that is if you are of a certain age (40+) and liked your music with jingle jangle guitars way back when.

The problem last night is that without the Commotions backing him up, the guitars were absent and the crowd was too big, too noisy and probably too wound up at the start of a bank holiday weekend to give the due respect to the heartfelt stirrings of the almost 50 year old Cole. Too many of the songs just didn’t carry. But, when he broke out the almost hits that he was known for 25 years ago, (Cut Me Down, Lost Weekend, Perfect Skin amongst them) he held the room just fine, in fact just like he held a sold out Whitla Hall in 1988. Lloyd is in good voice, looks well and still throws out sardonic one liners.

I was talking to Festival Director Sean Kelly afterwards and Cole had told him he reckoned the concert qualified as a ‘6 out of 10′ gig. Had it been in a smaller venue, on a mid week night, where coffee was the drink of choice instead of beer, he may have hit the dizzy heights of an 8 or 9.

Strangely the ’support act’ played after the headliner which was probably just as well because had the reunited local band St Vitus Dance held the conventional support slot before the main act they might have blown Cole away. I had forgotten how good these songs were, SVD were a local almost successful band playing in the Crescent, the Egg and Queen’s 20 years ago. They released an album back then called Love me Love my Dogma. I am pretty sure I have a vinly copy in my Mum’s attic. The story goes that they got back together a year ago to record a much delayed follow up – talk about difficult second album syndrome – and play the occassional concert. I guess they are in their mid 40’s now but they can play, they can sing and they still write very good songs. I hope to see them again, and not in 20 years time.

The moment of the day came in the early afternoon when Lloyd Cole finished his soundcheck and was walking through the Cathedral Quarter. Who should he bump into on the street but Morrissey, in town for a couple of concerts and staying in The Merchant. According to eyewitness accounts they literally hailed one another in the street – not having met in two decades – and had a casual natter, Belfast style.

Where else would it happen?

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Publication: Stakeholder Media

Publication date: 02/05/09