Lloyd Cole is a frequent visitor to New Zealand; he seems to show up every two years or so, playing acoustic versions of his beautifully heartbroken songs. With his fiftieth birthday just a week in the past, he’s looking a bit greyer and a tad chubbier, but then, so are his fans. His Auckland show was at the Mercury Theatre, the first time the venue has been used for live music in many years, and it was perfectly suited for Cole who observed, “this is the ideal venue for me…it’s possibly seen better days”.
This time around Cole is performing with two other musicians, guitarists Matt Cullen and Mark Schwaber. But this was a totally unplugged affair, with acoustic guitars being strummed all night augmented by the occasional mandolin and banjo.
Cole opened the first set with No Blue Skies, from 1990’s Lloyd Cole album, before tossing in a couple of tunes from his days with The Commotions, Why I Love Country Music and Perfect Skin. He also made it clear that he has a new album out, Broken Record, and promptly played the title track from it. From there on Cole took a leisurely stroll through his 25-year career playing songs from albums like Music In A Foreign Language (2003), Don’t Get Weird On Me Babe (1991) and Antidepressant (2006). His only covers were a gorgeous medley of two Tim Hardin tunes, The Lady Came From Baltimore and Reason To Believe. Other highlights included his own Why In The World, from Broken Record and Old Enough To Know Better, from Plastic Wood.
These days most of Cole’s songs deal with heartbreak or middle-aged life. His lyrics always strike a nerve and his melodies are as memorable as ever. He kept old fans happy (there were 5 songs from Rattlesnakes) while proving that his new material can stand up to his best (5 songs from Broken Record).
My only complaint was the use of the two additional musicians, most of the time they played acoustic guitars alongside Cole. If you’re going to bring extra bodies along, perhaps a percussionist, or keyboard player would be more satisfying, in order to add more musical texture to the sound. Three acoustic guitars strumming away isn’t much different than one, although the mandolin added some nice touches. Also, it would have been nice to hear a few vocal harmonies, but apparently, neither of the two sang.
Overall, it was a night where the song was the centre of attention and Cole’s are as good as anyone’s.
Listen here to Lloyd Cole perform Don’t Look Back in Auckland: