Can I assume that everyone who thinks Neil Hannon is a too clever by half coconut head won’t bother reading this in order to discover the current live form of this incarnation of The Divine Comedy? OK then, hello everyone else….
The beauty of supporting one of yer fave artists these days by ordering their album or bankrolling it in some way with signed or special editions is that you get access to the resulting tour tickets first. So I was delighted to get a double for me and m’colleague Hannah to pootle up the M11 and the intimate Cambridge Junction venue for The Divine Comedy’s ‘Foreverland’ initial tour dates. At half the price of next years run of shows at the London Palladium, a more than decent spot in the crowd despite a late walk up after a 5 Guys burger bomb and crystal clear sound, well, it really was a marvellous party.
Hannah has a theory that TDC are best experienced live and something is lost on the actual records which I can certainly see as Neil Hannon is a most charming and likeable chap with his bumbling stage patter and gleefully hammy acting style. He dons a bowler for ‘The Complete Banker’ and ‘Bang Goes The Knighthood’ tonight “dedicated to Sir Phillip, I mean, Phillip Green” and uses his umbrella for emphasis.
It’s a good hour before we get any of the new stuff with glorious treats like ‘Our Mutual Friend’ and a fine cover of ‘Alfie’ which he announced with everyone expecting the hit. The long outro of the former allows him to exit stage right to reappear a minute or two late in full French Revolutionary uniform complete with tricorn hat (“This should be interesting when we get to France”) but rather than reasonably lead track on the new album ‘Napoleon Complex’ we get the stomping ‘Sweden’ in all its overblow sturm und drang majesty. First new song, ‘How Can You leave Me On My Own’ is classic TDC – witty lyrics with an infectious pop melody as Neil laments “When you leave I become a dickhead / A couch dwelling, foul smelling dickhead”.
Support artist, Lisa O’Neill joins him for ‘Funny Peculiar’ as they swap compliments and quick swigs of wine and .’Catherine The Great’ celebrates the heroic woman but also happens to be his current squeeze’s name. The new songs fit seamlessly alongside ‘The Frog Princess’ and surprises like ‘Count Grassi’s Passage Over Piedmont' – you simply don’t get songs about the pioneering days of ballooning anywhere else these days
From there is a rockier romp via ‘Weekend, the other ‘Alfie’, taking a trip on the National Express, with Songs Of Love until Tonight, We Fly off home very happy that we few, we happy few, were here this sold out night