I arrived at the Esplanade Recital Studio in the early hours of Monday afternoon and was welcomed by the distracting noise of the Esplanade sound crew carrying out its microphone check. The purpose of my visit? To provide Lloyd with a couple of guitar stands! Anything to meet the man, I guess. He turned up, greying hair and slight paunch (like me, I guess) and proceeded to go about his sound check in a business-like manner. Armed with his two acoustic guitars, Lloyd sounded warm and pristine as the Recital Studio resounded with his baritone voice. Nice.
It didn’t take long for Lloyd to finish up what was required and Dinesh and I escorted him back to his hotel. Dinesh & I chatted for awhile before he had to meet up with his wife, Sylvia and by then it was two hours plus to the gig.
So there I was, macbook on my lap, in the Esplanade Concourse, typing out these words and trying to figure out how I will approach this review. I guess I could begin by referring to my love of Rattlesnakes, that magnificent debut LP of Lloyd Cole and the Commotions. With literate words and folk-jazz arrangements, Rattlesnakes spent more than a fair amount of of time on my turntable in the early 80s. Or I could pontificate about how in the internet age, even obscure artists could turn their musical gift into a cottage industry of sorts. Or maybe I could write about how Chris Collingwood and Lloyd Cole are friends and live in the same area in the USA.
I rather start with Tim Ellis. Tim is an Aussie Lloyd Cole fan who flew down to Singapore to sell Lloyd’s CDs. Mind you, Tim is a volunteer (!) and does so purely out of his love and passion for Lloyd’s music. Which to me says more about Lloyd’s music than a million press releases and glowing reviews. And… the 52 CDs that Tim brought with him were sold out during the half time interval between Lloyd’s two sets.
So here I am warm in the afterglow of Lloyd’s performance, listening to Lloyd’s recording of his Whelan (in Dublin) gig and whilst the CD is good in its own right, it cannot compare to a special intimate night with Lloyd as he shared songs from his early days with the Commotions, his middle period as a solo artist (and the Negatives) and his newer material.
Certainly, the songs he popularized with the Commotions eg Perfect Skin, Are You Ready to be Heartbroken (which Lloyd actually played twice for the folks who returned late after the break!!), Lost Weekend and the like, go down well with the sold out audience whilst latter-day solo material like My Other Life, Late Night Early Town, Old Enough To Know Better, Undressed, No More Love Songs, Unhappy Song, What’s Wrong With This Picture hit the spot every single time.
Personally, I found the set truly inspiring and its the sort of influential performance that make us musician-types wanna pick up a guitar and start playing. I am richer for having had the experience. Good enough reasons for re-visiting the music of this talented and distinctive singer-songwriter.
Pix by Jonathan Kwa.