Live performances that ooze a sense of nostalgia always provide a happy sentimental trip down memory lane. And with Lloyd Cole, the former Commotions frontman shifting his focus from folk-pop ballads to his long-term love affair with instrumental electronic music in the last few years, devotees were due to be transported back in time to the recollection of archived wonders and reminisce old days.
Comprising of songs from 1983-1996, Lloyd Cole treated fans to his Retrospective tour – a songbook of tracks that dug deep into the back catalogue of post-punk era music to celebrate the release of his new anthology. And despite being at a creative crossroad in 2016, Cole’s earlier path with The Commotions made a huge comeback at the Fly By Night Club on Saturday in an exclusive once-off Perth show, solo acoustic setting. But as if these songs from the classic decades were ever forgotten, anyway.
For the first half of the set, Cole took to the stage with just his guitar and voice. His eclectic solo efforts were established instantaneously; armed with moody melancholy numbers that still held timeless value to his attentive audience. His vocals sounded as rich and as flawless as when they first warmed listener’s ears, with skilled guitar licks evolving into perfectly performed music. There was no introduction to Cole’s songs needed either; the focus was put simply on his art expression as he comfortably held the crowd in the palm of his hand, only dabbling in brief insights occasionally.
With not much more than a cheeky chuckle as he added AC/DC ‘s Rock n’ Roll Ain’t Noise Pollution intro to Rattlesnakes, Cole shifted between years that made up the 80’s and 90’s classics. The well-loved hit received a healthy round of applause and was backed up by a crowd-pleasing version of Prince’s Sometimes it Snows in April. For a sold-out performance; Cole created such an intimate vibe, almost as if he were playing to a handful of close friends which made it that little bit more special.
The sound at the Fly’s new venue was crisp, offering quality acoustics that carried Cole’s flawless vocals across the theatre-style room beautifully. The audience barely moved as he played and every attention to detail was heard; from the warm tones of the guitar to the intricate parts of his well-crafted songs. It’s this proficiency that was respected in every corner of the room, a precise skill that makes Lloyd Cole stand out from other performers and cements him as one of the greatest storytellers of his time.
Cole’s dry sense of humour offered an amusing break between songs as he made reference to Mick Jagger getting old too, but seems to be the only one having fun these days. He encouraged the crowd to sing to the lyrics they knew, “if you find yourself singing along to some of the songs, that’s ok – even if you can’t sing. Just don’t drum, though” he warned, “it’s always rubbish!” The first half of the set was closed with Jennifer She Said, which got everyone tapping their feet and singing. And thankfully, there was no shit drumming from the crowd to be heard.
Part two welcomed a special guest, who Cole later introduced as his son William Cole. The guitar interplay between them both added an exciting appeal, with extra quality and depth that lifted the performance to a pop-driven second half. Highlights Like Lovers Do, Are You Ready to be Heartbroken, Perfect Skin and 2 CV made it clear Cole had given the setlist a lot of thought, catering precisely to the audience’s needs and wants and touching on all the good bits. The set was perfectly reworked for an acoustic show too, offering a melodious storytelling feel that made the performance more like a poetry piece rather than as if you were listening to an album.
Young Cole was certainly a Neil Clark on guitar and reflected his father’s persona felicitously on stage, whilst still adding his own individual talent to the set. “Imagine how long it took me to find a man that looks just like I do“, Cole later joked to the crowd.
Other carefully selected songs included Undressed from Cole’s 90’s solo period. No More Love Songs was the most youthful track of the show at only 20 years young. Commotions’ back catalogue revisited the 1987 hit Hey Rusty and Brand New Friend finalised the set before the boys came back with two winning encores – Lost Weekend and Forrest Fire.
Cole’s articulate and acute songwriting skills shone through both parts of the show and the layer of nostalgia simmered over the audience. The songs were sung with passion, propelled by gentle tones intertwined with rich poetry and a faultless voice that still remains intact after all these years. Any Lloyd Cole and The Commotions enthusiast would’ve been thoroughly impressed by the performance.