Review and photographs by Tim Livingston
There has been such an influx of great shows coming through the area the past few months sometimes something really special goes by nearly unnoticed. Such was the case when Club Helsinki in Hudson recently presented the intelligent singer-songwriter Lloyd Cole. Lloyd came on to the scene in the early-to-mid ’80s with his jangly british pop band the Commotions and since then has released a bevy of quality, yet eclectic albums. For this tour Lloyd has left behind the lush, orchestrated arrangements of many of his albums and has stripped it down to a man and his guitar. In doing so, he really showcased what a strong batch of songs he has amassed over the years.
Starting promptly at 8pm, Cole in a sense opened for himself by doing a short set of solo material, just him and his guitar, that spotlighted his smart lyrics and were driven by his strong, rich vocal delivery. A voice that one could listen to all night long. Hitting on the many eras of his career – such as “Unhappy Song” from 1995’s “Love Story” album, “Butterfly” from 1991’s “Don’t Get Weird on Me Babe” and a few tunes from his latest offering “Broken Record” – Lloyd began to weave his way through his majestic catalog filled with highlights.
At the end of the “solo” set, he left the stage for a very short intermission while his son, 19-year-old William Cole, came on and tuned the four acoustic guitars in preparation for the main set in which Will joined his dad on second guitar. This aspect proved to be much more than a show, but literally a passing of the torch to the next generation. It was heartwarming to see father and son watching each other as they went through the songs that dad had sent to him to rehearse for the tour. And son William most definitely came prepared. He seemed to nail tune after tune, capturing each melody line that defined the signature songs of Lloyd’s career, even ones such as “Rattlesnakes,” which senior Cole announced was written about 18 years before Will was born. A devilish grin crossed young Will’s face as his father seemingly messed up one of his own songs, making Lloyd state afterwards that yes, he owed the kid $5 for the mistake. The duo continued to shine on the likes of “Are You Ready to Be Heartbroken” and “Wasting Precious Time” (a song that William had worked the arrangement out on) and “Perfect Skin,” a dance club staple now arranged to highlight the song in its rawest form with brilliant results.
The proud dad continued to introduce his young guitar player shouting, “William Cole on guitar!!!,” song after song and rightfully so, as the younger Cole did a great job and the father spoke about how happy he was to be able to take his son on their upcoming tour of England, Ireland and Europe, even though he expected people there to confront him with, “Your son is an American??!!??” Whatever his nationality, the kid has the chops and the looks with his dad’s dark eyes and a jet-black rock & roll haircut. Dare I say William has a bright future as a performer. Be it as a guitar player, or perhaps writing his own songs and carving out his own niche, but there is also something special about thinking that he could go on for years with his Dad’s catalog of songs, continuing the Cole legacy and perhaps 30 years from now playing “Perfect Skin,” with his own son or daughter in tow, to a whole new audience!
The elder Cole’s voice soared, and his stage manner was very casual and loose throughout the evening, making for a personal and intimate show for the fans. He joked about Alice Cooper knowing who he was when Alice was quoted as saying “even Lloyd Cole doesn’t have any songs about masturbation.” (Or does he???) And he mentioned his love of the band Mott the Hoople, (a sentiment that I heard another artist, Alejandro Escovedo, also proclaim the following day) before playing his “Mott the Hoople song” about life on the road in a rock band.
The duo ended the encore with “Brand New Friend,” a stunning song from his “Easy Pieces” album, another one written nearly two decades before Will was born, in which he nailed the guitar hook on. In 1985, Lloyd may have been searching for “a brand new friend,” but at this point in his life he seems to have found him… right at home.