Lloyd Cole – Live @ Eddie’s Attic

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I hadn’t heard of Lloyd Cole until my concert buddy had a friend who couldn’t make it to the show.  Great venue, great price, and a Friday night. 

Lloyd Cole had some notoriety back in the 80’s with his band The Commotions, probably foremost with his initial album, Rattlesnakes, released in 1984.  He’s continued releasing music through the years, his last in 2013.

I listened briefly to some of his early songs before the show, and, to my ears, they sounded dated, which detracted from his singing and lyrics.

For me, Cole’s songs are better suited to solo acoustic, which makes sense in context but a format which makes for a difficult sale for recorded sales. But, if you take a sample lyric from a noted singer/songwriter (or even a “highly literate” writer, which means he drops names a lot), the pointedness and humor is more expressly understood without the adornment of, ahem,  unimaginative accompaniment.

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For example, from “Rattlesnakes”:

She looks like Eva Marie Saint in On the Waterfront
As she reads Simone de Beauvoir in her American circumstance
Her heart.. her heart is like crazy paving
Upside down and back to front
She says"Ooh it's so hard to love
when love was your great disappointment."

or, “Diminished Ex”

And did I have it coming?
Maybe I did
I sure did disappoint you, didn't I?
Time and again, and again and again and again
I wont disavow my sinful weakness

No need to tell me
I already know
It can never be the same, baby
You've got to lay some blame, baby
If you've got to pin that scarlet letter to my breast
Well, do what you've got to do

So in light of these diminished expectations
I propose a temporary truce
If we are to negotiate these waters
Without further casualties

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So, if you trim the fat of the instrumentation, it leaves Cole to play a generous set of perhaps 30 songs of succinct and punctuated lyrical enjoyment.   Even better are the frequent re-tunings of his guitar, which is the perfect opportunity for an artist to relate to their audience, whether it’s personal stories, cutting wit, or… someone who lacks stage presence and suffers to speak in entertaining fashion without a script.

In Cole’s case, he made the most of the opportunities, such as describing at length something close to:  “It might be nice to be like other artists, to have someone travel with me, like a valet, to tune my guitar for me.  It would be very professional.  And that would be wonderful, except that person would travel with me, and I’d have take him to dinner with me.  And I don’t want to have dinner with him.  So, there you are and here we are.”   

Eddie’s is said to have a capacity of 185 (120 seems more likely), but in any case it’s an intimate venue for fans to enjoy a concert.  The audience knew his songs, many attempting to sing along accompanied by the hushes from the wait staff, who are bound to gently admonish patrons due to a venue which venerates a respectful, listening atmosphere rather than a participatory experience. 

In any case, this allows artists like Cole to shine, to present themselves as they choose and to be heard that way.   

Awkward moment:  We left before the encore, and the venue is small enough that the artist’s “off stage” spot is at the entry to the bar.  A concerned, confused voice, speaking to the host, “They’re not clapping for an encore.”  We scoot by him, increasing his doubt.  We were tired sir, and had a long drive and early morning ahead.  No worries.  You were great.

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