GIG REVIEW: Divine Comedy at the Barbican

WORTH A LOOK?: ****

WHERE?: Barbican RUNTIME: 60 minutes (no interval)

WHEN?: 14/10/20, new Barbican shows planned for 1-5/9/21 (ticket details below)

SETLIST: Absent Friends; Norman and Norma: National Express; Something For The Weekend; Songs Of Love; Your Daddy’s Car; To Die A Virgin; Becoming More Like Alfie; To The Rescue; A Lady Of A Certain Age; Charmed Life; Tonight We Fly; Our Mutual Friend

‘This has been f**king brilliant. I’ve loved it. Good for the soul,’ remarks Divine Comedy frontman Neil Hannon.  ‘Thank you – that’s the end of the tour.’

  • Read on for reasons including how to see them on tour next year

Hannon’s band is celebrating its first 30 years by releasing a collection Venus, Cupid, Folly & Time and playing a socially distanced show at the Barbican which we are watching on livestream.

The band won our Best Gig monsta in 2019 and Hannon is in fine live form tonight: ‘If this is the only time I get to do this in this year, or for however long it takes, I’m going to enjoy myself. Is that alright?’

He is joined by a five-strong band (Andrew Skeet, piano, Ian Watson, accordion, Simon Little, bass, Tim Weller, drums, and Tosh Flood, guitar) for an hour-long hits set which feels like an absolute triumph given the circumstances.

Hannon had planned a week-long series of gigs celebrating his back catalogue by playing two full albums each night. Tickets for these are still onsale at the link below but have been moved back to September 2021 because of COVID-19.

‘No, let’s not talk about stuff, let’s just play music,’ says the frontman, correcting himself.

And, later, after an especially exuberant Something For The Weekend: ‘I’m not match fit. How’ve you been? I’ll dedicate the next number for no apparent reason to the people in all of the music industry. Spare a thought for the musicians, the road crew, the lighting guys, the record companies all of that. Please Mr Johnson, could we have some more?’

The banter is entertaining but the songs themselves are a reminder of just how long this band have been having hits and what a spectacular collection of quirky songs they have in the locker betraying influences from so many different corners.

Screen Shot 2020-10-15 at 20.20.03

On attempting a difficult note, Hannon says: ‘Not even close. Too many pizzas and G and Ts at 6 O’clock.’ And later: ‘Thank you at home for the rapturous applause you are currently giving us. I can sense it.’

We’re struck by the prescience of some of the material we are less familiar with particularly the: ‘With all the bombs and the bird flu we’ll probably die soon’ from To Die A Virgin which has a disarmingly jolly musical outlook  but is dedicated to students currently captive.

Hannon’s ‘good for the soul’ comment seems particularly understated after what has been so much fun in such unpredictable times. Roll on the next tour!

  • Picture via Twitter courtesy DaveDogFangedBoy the Divine Comedy Tickets
  • Have you seen any of these shows? Let us know what you thought in the comments below

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