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Low-key Cole ages with grace

FOR a few ignorant years back in the early 90s, I rather sniffily dismissed Lloyd Cole as nothing but a purveyor of sixth form poetry.

Lloyd Cole at The Sage Gateshead

FOR a few ignorant years back in the early 90s, I rather sniffily dismissed Lloyd Cole as nothing but a purveyor of sixth form poetry.

That I’d not long emerged from the sixth form myself, suggests I was young enough to have at least reserved judgment as it wasn’t long before I succumbed to the literary charms of the floppy-haired troubadour.

Last night’s low key affair at Sage’s velvety Hall Two featured just Lloyd and his guitar, his way with a metaphor exposed in all its glory.

If I’m honest, I could still mount a pretty compelling case for the prosecution.

His first song, Woman In A Bar from latest album Antidepressant half rhymes “driven to distraction” with “Scarlet Johansson” much in the manner he paired “get a new tailor” with “Norman Mailer” a good 20 years ago.

I’ve long since deemed such antics as charming and really rather witty and it even got a laugh last night, in the same strange way that audiences laugh at Shakespeare to prove they got the joke.

But this examination of ageing and adult life is a fine new stage in Lloyd’s songwriting progression, albeit a stage with only the occasional turn of the panache with which he used to fill albums in his pomp.

Nonetheless, these acoustic versions are pared down and delicate things, leaving us hanging on his every word. Cut Me Down is perfect and fragile, while Rattlesnakes is restrained and quite beautiful.

I want to sing, I bet everyone wants to sing, but I allow myself a faint whisper; hushing out lyrics about a “heart like crazy paving” and wishing I’d written them.

His between-song banter is decent too, despite his confession that he’s not feeling well tonight.

He reassures us he’s not deliberately avoiding magazine covers, in these less prolific times. And he wonders aloud whether he’d feel better about his hair colour if he dubbed himself the Silver Fox and we all laugh again.

Music In A Foreign Language and Late Night, Early Town and then No More Love Songs are full of the conviction that came with one of his more convincing and consistent of recent albums.

And then he caresses out Patience and NYC Sunshine and for a moment I’m taken to New York with leaves falling and that rarest of things happens when a song takes you to another place.

And with Perfect Skin, 2cv and My Bag he transports me to another time, a time when I was young and foolish and before I really appreciated how far a way with words can take you.

Matt McKenzie

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