Lloyd Cole and The Leopards
Brooklyn Bowl, London
19th August 2016
Lloyd Cole is revisiting his back catalogue from 1984-1996. Reuniting with the Leopards that backed him on his UK tour in January 2014 for a series of rare full band shows. Louder Than War’s Craig Chaligne reviews with photos by Paul Grace.
It is a rare occurrence to see Lloyd Cole with a full band. Having toured solo (or as part of acoustic duos and trios) for almost 20 years, he decided to assemble a band for a short run of dates promoting his album Standards in 2013. Wisely avoiding the session musician route, he chose some of his old Glasgow acquaintances to back him. Mick Slaven (former guitarist in legendary Glaswegian band Bourgie Bourgie), Campbell Owens (played bass in Aztec Camera) and drummer Jim McDermott (Deacon Blue, The Silencers, Del Amitri) are part of Scottish surfpunk trio The Leopards. The band also includes Creeping Bent label head honcho Douglas McIntyre on guitar and Commotions keyboard player Blair Cowan.
Mike Marlin’s opening set full of moving and evocative songs resonated well with the audience (he’d also opened the Shepherd’s Bush Empire show in 2014), certainly a good match musically with Cole. As said in the intro Lloyd’s shows this year will only be containing songs written between 1984 and 1996, the band started with “Rattlesnakes”, after which Lloyd urged the audience for some help on the outro of the next number “Jennifer She Said” from The Commotions swansong album “Mainstream”. The bands take on the Commotions songs was more muscular than their original versions with Mike Slaven keeping the main melodic lines but also including his own sensibility and style to great effect. The shadow of Rattlesnakes has loomed far and large on Cole’s career (more in the eye of the public and the media than Cole’s) but a well balanced setlist saved the show from turning into a Commotions greatest hits and even managed to include a few surprises. The bands three guitars were put to good use on a great version of “So You’d Like to Save the World” from the underrated “Bad Vibes” album which was followed by “Weeping Wine” from Cole’s first solo Lp released in 1990. In the surprises department, a lost Commotions track titled “Everyone’s Complaining” (first aired on The Commotions box set released last year) proved to be a gem. Lloyd’s first album (which is one of his favourite records) was well represented with takes on “Downtown”, “Ice Cream Girl” and “Sweetheart”. Already a highlight on the 2014 tour, the aerial “Perfect Blue” from 1985’s “Easy Pieces” got a great reception as did “Brand New Friend”. The band left the stage as Lloyd recalled how T-Rex used to an acoustic section in the middle of their shows before being joined by his son William for a nice version of “2CV” followed by “Are You Ready to Be Heartbroken ?” with Blair Cowan and Jim McDermott. “Like Lovers Do” was another great showcase for Mike Slaven’s guitar skills. A heckler kept requesting “Down In Mission Street” but hopefully the bands great take on “Charlotte Street” satisfied him. The band pulled all the stops in the last stretch of the set with “Perfect Skin”, “My Bag” and “Lost Weekend”. A two song encore featured Bob Dylan’s “I Don’t Believe You” that The Commotions used to play live and “Forest Fire”. Lloyd said that him and The Leopards were a part time band that got together every tho years and that they might not be the sharpest of outfits but had fun playing together. Judging by this show, the whole audience would beg to disagree on the first part.