Tonight is a very special night for Peter Coyle. It’s been a long while since he played a solo gig in the City where The Lotus Eaters sprang from in the early 80s, finding fame with their evergreen single “The First Picture of You”. Alongside Jem Kelly the band’s success was short-lived, with numerous regroupings and finally a solo career for Coyle which continues from his home in France.
This short (three-gig) visit to the homeland kicks off in the backroom of The Cavern and is packed with faces from Peter’s past, who welcome him gladly with a queue of well-wishing hugs after the show.
First up however is Jon Keats. Coming in from Crosby, North Liverpool he brings with him a warm vocal delivery through a tight set of acoustic songs with a folk/country flavour.
Starting with the title song from his new album, “Any Man Would Do The Same”, he sets out his stall by delivering love songs from a mature viewpoint. He likens the sound of “Waiting Without You” to Eddie Cochrane, but his approach is much softer. To be fair, his gentle guitar picking is more reminiscent of Paul Weller’s quieter acoustic moments (“True Meanings” era), particularly on the lilting “Still Waters”. The set finishes with the upbeat “Yesterday was Beautiful” by which point the crowd are settled in for the main event.
Peter is performing The Lotus Eaters’ debut album No Sense of Sin (1984) in its entirety. This is the album in its true form, having been much mutilated in various re-issues over the years. Here we get all 12 original songs from an album that sums up the youthful exuberance of a young Liverpool band in the early 80s in a way that their contemporaries The Pale Fountains achieved equally.
Backed by just a guitar and keyboards Peter enters the room beaming his trademark smile across the audience. At 61, he still retains the freshness of that young man who graced our TV screens from Top of The Pops all those decades ago.
Peter Coyle is a fascinating performer, the gentlest of souls when speaking, with an angelic singing voice, but physically taut, making spasmodic movements in an almost Ian Curtis fashion, often seeming to be singing one song whilst silently mouthing another. It is difficult to turn away as his presence becomes almost hypnotic.
Delivering the album in order means a sprightly start with “German Girls”, evoking images of a young band discovering the world, on the road, and also discovering the girls along the way.
“Love Still Flows” and “Can You Keep a Secret” are perfect examples of 1980s Merseybeat and those of us who were there can imagine the beautiful strains of these songs wafting from tape players across a sunny Sefton Park.
“Too Young” is a perfect companion to Lloyd Cole’s “Jennifer she said”, which was played on the interval playlist tonight, another letter to young love. Tonight’s version melds into a softly breathed re-telling of Dylan’s “All Along the Watchtower”. Peter is not averse to the odd cover now and then as we discover later.
In an unusual instance of album structure, “The First Picture of You” doesn’t appear until nine tracks in, smack in the middle of side two, and it’s the one that most people have been waiting for. Even Peter in our recent interview (which you can read here), admitted it is still his favourite. Whereas the other album songs tonight have been performed in the bubble of Peter’s own unique psyche, “First Picture” bursts out into a full-on crowd moment with Peter holding the mic out for us to fill in the chorus repeatedly. It’s a song that cannot fail to lift the room and Peter himself becomes emotional, eyes welling as the home crowd deliver his finest moment back to him.
The remaining tracks may be slightly overshadowed by the big hit, but a searing outro of “Alone of all her Sex” keeps the momentum high and a heartbreaking vocal on “When You Look At Boys” silences the room. We are treated to the bonus of lost single “It Hurts”, which should have been a much more revered 7” of the 80s but somehow failed to hit the mark. One of pop’s great mysteries. Tonight Peter throws in some of the elements of the celebrated 12” version, adding “There Must Be A Taste of Murder” into the mix. Spine chilling.
A short break and a trip to the bar and we are back for a short set of Peter’s post No Sense of Sin moments. Starting with the recent “Phased”, a track recorded with Heaven 17’s Martyn Ware, it is clear from the fans in the room that his career is still being closely followed. The heavenly “Blue Sky Volcano” from his Isotrope album continues with lyrics that are never too far from nature, a running theme through much of Peter’s work.
“Don’t Burn your Heart” morphs into Black Eyed Peas “I Gotta Feeling” and gives another opportunity for crowd participation as does his always unlikely cover of “Solsbury Hill” by his “hero” Peter Gabriel. The sunny nature of the song with its rural imagery is perhaps not too far removed from Peter’s continental abode.
The last few dips into the past with “Can Your Kisses Fly” from The Lotus Eaters’ Silent Space album and “Reach For the Sun” from his 2001 The Mood Machine album, only serve to remind us of what a truly incredible singer / songwriter Peter Coyle is and how rich his back catalogue is also.
He has held this small venue in the palm of his hand tonight and repays his followers with a second dose of “The First Picture of You”, received by a standing, swaying chorus of lovelorn women. Peter exits the stage “before I start crying”, leaving us with “This Means the World to Me”, and it’s clear he means it.
Those unfamiliar with Peter’s Post Lotus Eaters work, I urge you to explore Peter Coyle Fractal on Spotify.
You won’t be disappointed.
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