Lismore City Hall | Saturday 14 December | 7.30pm | $50–55
English singer-songwriter Lloyd Cole has been at top of his game for over 30 years. Perhaps best known for his work with the Commotions, with hits like Rattlesnakes Cole made his mark as the master of moody material. A seasoned pro, he’s learnt to approach every gig with a fresh take. It’s what makes his shows so engaging.
‘We learnt that early on’, he says, ‘when the Commotions toured [our] first record we did a gig in Leeds – it was a famous little venue and we got an encore, and we got a second encore, and we always used to play Glory because we thought it was better than our songs… but the audience was crying for more, so we thought let’s play Bad Moon Rising by Credence, and we nailed it. We had never played it before! Unfortunately, we tried to play it at the next gig and it was a disaster – so much about our career depends upon luck and chance. You can encounter an audience that is good but you may not be good enough to please them!’
The key for Cole is to create intimacy, no matter what the gig size.
‘When you are playing solo, or duo, and it’s not a band and it’s more like cabaret, and it’s more like theatre – you have to make the audience feel like it’s an intimate show, even if the room is big. I tell jokes, but I don’t call them jokes – I tell stories. I know they are funny, and I get [the audience] to know I am not as stern as I look. But I do take my music seriously. I like them to see me move between reflecting and laughing and then playing something serious and deep.’
Pathos often does underscore the best comedy.
Cole laughs. ‘Samuel Beckett once said, “Nothing is funnier than human suffering”.’
And no one quite articulates human suffering with the gravitas of Leonard Cohen. Lloyd recalls a concert that brought him to tears. ‘How can you be in New York, and it’s a fantastic concert, and he plays Chelsea Hotel… how can you not cry?’
Lloyd Cole’s shows have been known to have that effect too. He recalls a friend at a solo show in Stockholm who came back stage to inform him “There were a lot of men crying tonight”… that’s my job. People love to cry from music.’
This tour takes in the breadth of Lloyd’s work. Called From Rattlesnakes to Guesswork it stretches from his early career to some of the songs from his most recent album. Guesswork was released earlier this year and Lloyd is enjoying translating the largely keyboard composed songs to guitar. We talk about writing – it’s an intense process for him, and it involves accessing those emotionally hard-to-reach places.
‘I have to use my feelings when I write. I work like a method actor – you have to call on your own feelings. It’s not that pleasant. I don’t write that much these days – I don’t put myself through the mill if I don’t have to. I write intensely for no more than a month out of 12 months.’
Lloyd Cole is at Lismore City Hall at 7.30pm on Saturday, 14 December. Tickets $50-55 from norpa.org.au