The next couple of days will see some short reflections on what proved to be a couple of outstanding gigs in Glasgow last week.
First up was a much-delayed appearance from Lloyd Cole on Monday 25 April at the Glasgow Royal Concert Hall (GRCH) It was originally scheduled for just over two years previously at the City Halls, a different location not all that often used for rock/pop events, but was an early victim of the widespread cancellations of events as a result of the COVID outbreak. Indeed, Lloyd reflected on this while on stage, reminiscing that he’d come over from his home in Massachusetts at the beginning of March 2010 for what was meant to be a 31-date tour across Europe, only to have it halted just seven shows in. There had been two subsequent attempts to reschedule, both of which were impacted from the fact that COVID showed no signs of diminishing, and indeed when the time and opportunity finally presented itself in 2022, the tour has had to be much-truncated and in some cases, such as Glasgow, the venue had to be shifted.
The one slight disappointment from a selfish point of view was that myself and Rachel’s tickets for the 2020 show had been bought within minutes of them going on sale, and we had snapped up two seats in the third row, slap bang in the centre. Our tickets for the new venue were still very good, but slightly further back and slightly to one side of the auditorium, although to be fair, in a venue as grand and acoustically excellent as the GRCH, it was only a small gripe and didn’t detract from a hugely enjoyable evening.
The tour has been given the title ‘From Rattlesnakes to Guesswork’, with the sales pitch indicating there would be songs from all across his career, but with an emphasis on the debut album with the Commotions and his most recent solo release from 2019. Lloyd took to the stage, at 8.45pm, going straight into Past Imperfect, the opening track from the much underappreciated album he released in 2000 with a new, and what proved to be short-lived backing band, The Negatives. It’s long been one of my favourites and so, as far as I was concerned, it had got off to the perfect start.
To just about everyone’s surprise, he aired Rattlesnakes very early on in the set, to the extent that a few stragglers, arriving for what I’m assuming they thought would be a 9pm start on the back of an appearance by a support act, were greeted from the stage with the words, “Good evening, welcome to the show…just to mention that I’m sorry, but you’ve missed Rattlesnakes’, an indication that Lloyd was in relaxed mood and enjoying the way the audience, which wasn’t quite a sell-out, was responding so enthusiastically.
Ten songs into the set, and he told us he was taking a short break of 20 minutes, after which he would return with someone who ‘would show up my guitar playing as being that of a well-meaning amateur’ for the second half of the show.
He was as good as his word, and to just about everyone’s expectation, his return saw him flanked by Neil Clark, long-time collaborator from the days of the Commotions and who also played on Guesswork, and they started things with this:-
The next 80 minutes or so seemed to go by in a flash. Lloyd and Neil were on blistering form, delivering a wonderful set in front of a home audience with, as they said on a couple of occasions, a few of their own friends, former colleagues and family sitting in the auditorium. All told, they played a further twenty songs, taking the show right through to ten past eleven, which is almost unheard of at gigs in Glasgow, with most venues having curfews around 10.30/10.45…but then again GRCH isn’t in a residential area and so the council are a bit more relaxed when it comes to noise and disturbance. As I commented on Facebook in the immediate aftermath, it made for a good night for taxi drivers, as most of the last trains had left the stations and buses don’t go to all parts of the city and surrounding areas.
Lloyd Cole celebrated his 61st birthday a few months back. He doesn’t look anything like it, and his voice is as good as it’s ever been, capable of sustaining him night after night for sets that are about two hours in length. OK, he doesn’t expend any energy rushing around the stage, never moving more than a few feet from his microphone, and the biggest effort comes when changing between his three acoustic guitars. Neil Clark, now that he’s bald and wears glasses, looks more like a middle manager in some sort of office setting, but his guitar work remains a class above most of his peers and there is real dynamism and chemistry between him and his singer-songwriter buddy. Together, they made it look effortless, when in fact the professionalism on show can really only be achieved thanks to many hours of preparation and rehearsal.
I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve now seen Lloyd Cole play on a stage somewhere, having taken in gigs in many towns in Scotland, as well as a show in Dublin in 2000. He’s never disappointed and to finish his main-set off with three great songs from the Commotions era – Hey Rusty, Perfect Skin and Lost Weekend – only to come back with a short encore which was rounded off by Forest Fire, meant that nobody was left feeling short-changed and firmly of the view that the two-year delay was worth waiting for.
Looking back over the set-list, it turned out there were ten songs from the Commotions era and two songs from the collaboration with the Negatives, with the other eighteen being spread, but not evenly, across various solo albums, with four taken from Standards (2013) and five from Guesswork (2019). These were among the highlights:-
He’s still got it…..and hopefully he’ll be back on our shores again before too long.