WORTH A LOOK?: ****
WHERE? Eventim Apollo
WHEN? 17/10, tour runs to 9/11/19
SETLIST: Europop; Queuejumper; Generation Sex; Commuter Love; Office Politics; Norman and Norma; Come Home Billy Bird; The Synthesizer Service Centre Super Summer Sale; Infernal Machines; You’ll Never Work In This Town Again; I’m A Stranger Here; At The Indie Disco; I Like; National Express; The Life And Soul Of The Party; A Feather In Your Cap; A Lady Of A Certain Age; Absent Friends; When The Working Day Is Done; Something For The Weekend; Philip And Steve’s Furniture Removal Company; Your Daddy’s Car; Songs Of Love; Tonight We Fly
‘Sometimes I get a little nervous about London. I make myself less nervous by basically assuming that you’re … Nottingham,’ says Divine Comedy frontman Neil Hannon endearingly to audience cheers. ‘Excellent playing along.’
- Read on for reasons including how this was a 5* performance not fully appreciated by your reviewer
He and his five-strong band have just played three uptempo tracks bookending the band’s 27-year output and they have been received rapturously.
Later Hannon dedicates I’m A Stranger Here to ‘all the people like me who came to this country to make it their home – and made it great’. It’s about as political as the Enniskillen-born singer/songwriter gets tonight.
You may have read that Hannon is on the cusp of launching a Father Ted musical and there’s an inkling of concept about outstanding current album Office Politics which has pride of place in this set.
There is a clock with moving hands hanging over the stage which reads 8 o’clock at the set’s beginning and also doors marked ‘in’ and ‘out’.
The audience is predominantly male, middle-aged and dressed sensibly (as are we) and we’re guessing that one of the latest album’s themes of the threat of technology to working life chimes with them.
Another element is the dreaded office party with ‘riding the photocopier’ mentioned and the tragic drunken Life And Soul Of The Party teeing up a moving and desolate Feather In Your Cap.
The intelligence of the band’s lyrics reminds of another Neil, Pet Shop Boys’ lyricist Neil Tennant, and the awkward shoulder shrug dance shimmy Hannon employs throughout seems part Jarvis Cocker and part Marc Almond.
The main set ends with humour as roadies dressed as removal men start dismantling the scenery during Philip And Steve’s Furniture Removal Company.
The final three songs are all from the 90s and the group gather together closely at the front of the stage for an encore of songs clearly beloved by their fans.
This is a five-star performance we’ll give four explained by this confession: we’re fans of 90s albums Casanova, A Short Album About Love and Fin de Siècle but stopped listening because 2001’s Regeneration seemed so humourless.
It’s a shame because we’ve missed out on the terrific pop of At The Indie Disco, beautiful Absent Friends and quirky Billy Bird. The well-observed character story of Norman And Norma was a Song Of The Month for us this year and we think Office Politics is the band’s best ever album.
This concert proves that we’ve missed out but we do have a chance to catch up with the band’s back catalogue which we’re already very much enjoying.
How does it end? With a ‘Good night Nottingham’. Obviously.