Saturday, October 5, 2013

Lloyd in Belgrade

I was a little nervous walking down to Lloyd's show at the Kultural Centar last night. He'd nver played in Belgrade before, and I was afraid that it would be a disappointing turnout, despite the good buzz on the new album. When I'd found information about the concert on the internet, it had said that tickets were available Thursdays and Saturdays at the box office from 5-7; but when I'd walked down there two Saturdays ago, there was no-one there; and when I tried again on Thursday, there was a congenial Serb in a british embassy polo with a stack of tickets and the lineup for purchase, was, um, me.

But it was assigned seating for the first four rows at a slightly higher price (about $15) and the best available seat was in the fourth row, slightly left of center; that sounded like a few tickets had been sold, anyway.

I arrived at the hall shortly after eight for the 8:30 start. Lloyd has always been very punctual in the past, so I figured the show would start on time. There were a couple of dozen people milling about in the lobby, but the doors had not opened yet. As I waited, people trickled in, and I was soon reassured that the crowd was going to be, if not huge, adequate--at least as big as the audience at the ArtsCenter last Spring in Chapel Hill.

The doors opened aroung 8:30, and, when Lloyd walked out at 9, the theatre was nearly full. It was about twenty rows of 25 seats and a balcony with half a dozen rows, so this was going to be the largest crowd for a Lloyd show that I'd ever been a part of. What was the demographic? That's a tough one. Usually it's people like me (boyish 47, sorely uninspired, to rework one of the man's lyrics), but this was that, and more--some Brits, some patrons of the arts, and a few hipsters, although I might not even be able to properly identify someone in that class anymore.

He started out with a countrified sort of version of Past Imperfect that really didn't work for me. Maybe I was missing the Negatives. He then played Rattlesnakes and Like Lovers do; both were good and the crowd was politely appreciative. He inquired about their English comprehension abilities, and it was abundantly clear that people could understand him. He made a joke about having had a Serbian meal today, consisting of lots of meat and some quince brandy; it wasn't entirely laudatory, but it went over pretty well, and the ice cracked a little.

He then played Kids Today (he didn't say "Dig it" when he namechecked Chic, much to my disappointment. That was the one I had enjoyed most at the earlier live show, but I was a little disappointed with the album version, though I couldn't say why. It worked for me here, though, even though he mangled the lyric about "nihilism." That got a nice response, and he followed it up with lovely versions of Why I Love Country Music and No Truck, followed by one of the many plugs for the new album, which he said was "better than Rattlesnakes." Everyone thought he was joking, and I think he was too, though not entirely. He also made the joke about having to go to dinner with the roadie as the reason he didn't have one, and about being his own opening act. Not quite as funny the seventh time around.

But then, something happened. When he sang the first line of Broken Record ("Not that I had that much dignity, anyway." the crowd burst into applause--much louder than they had for a couple of the earleir hits--and he seemed a little taken aback, saying something about how that is not one of his songs that generally receives such a response.

He followed that up with Baby and Perfect Blue, another favorite, which I don't think I've ever heard him perform live before. Again, the crowd was polite, but a raucous version of Period Piece and a joke about Partizan fans cemented the rapport, and, for the remainder of the show, the crowd was loud, and a few were even raucous. I clapped as usual.

During the break, I noticed that Standards was selling pretty well--much better than I've seen albums selling at other shows, where I expect that, like me, the attendees have already bought the record.

You could see that Lloyd was relaxed during the second set, even having a good time (for him). The audience tried to clap along to a few songs, and, although he was appreciative of their enthusiasm, he admonished them on a couple of occasions that it wouldn't work.

The first two songs of the set were Are you ready to be Heartbroken and the woefully unappreciated Music in a Foreign Language. He also played a great version of Pay For It and Blue Like Mars and Myrtle and Rose from the new record, which, although they are objectively the best songs on the album, just don't hit me the way some of the others do. Call me a cad, but I like Women's Studies.

But I've changed in the last thirty years. Perhaps that's why Hey Rusty, which I used to love, although nicely rendered, seems a little jejune these days. "We were students" he joked when the protagonist was questioning his actions in Brand New Friend.

He ended with Perfect Skin, Unhappy Song and Lost Weekend, and when he walked off, the crowd was louder than I've heard at any show in the last twenty years. He looked happy when he came back, and he gave the crowd nice versions of Four Flights Up and Forest Fire.

I don't know if  he'll come back, and I doubt I'll be here when he does, but I'm happy that he got a good reception in Belgrade and that he gave a good performance in return. Nicely done, everyone.

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