By Neil Durham
WORTH A LOOK?: *****
WHEN?: 5 gigs, each night between Wednesday 31 August and Sunday 4 September 2022
Divine Comedy frontman Neil Hannon had 1 word to describe fans joining the band for 5 consecutive concerts at this prestigious London venue to hear 10 of the act’s studio albums in full – ‘weirdos’.
- Read on for reasons including why you wouldn’t need Desert Island Discs if you were shipwrecked with The Divine Comedy
We are doing so, this review is after the 1st 2 nights, and it’s a word Hannon uses to describe himself as he ponders 1993 album Liberation: ‘I was a weird little thing at that age – this is quite nerve-racking.’
With over 100 different songs to play over these 5 nights, this is quite the feat and Hannon downplays the matter in hand: ‘There’ll be no pyros, nos showmanship, we’re just playing the songs.’
Our memory of 1st hearing Liberation was at a friend’s student house in Aberystwyth when we were just a little put off by the bookishness, mix of Mr Benn and highbrow literary references and archness of the humour.
So it was far from love at 1st listen. But listening back to it in full, while it lacks the coalition of follow-up Promenade, it flirts with the best of 60s pop (Bernice Bobs Her Hair), route-1 hits (Europop), catchy handclaps (The Pop Singer’s Fear Of The Pollen Count) and great storytelling (Your Daddy’s Car).
We’re big fans of Tim Burgess’ Listening Parties on Twitter and this is like a mega-edition with Hannon at 1 point commenting on a run of Liberation songs: ‘And now 3 songs about a girl I was obsessed with’.
He explains that Promenade was conceived as a story between 2 people over 24 hours and he wishes it could be turned into a film. It does boast 1 uplifting gem – Tonight We Fly – which is also part of a super special night 2 encore.
Night 1 encores are hits Generation Sex – the Princess Diana references coming close to the anniversary of her death – and a joyous National Express during which Hannon passes his microphone into the audience for the front row to join in.
Something For The Weekend was the hit that launched the band’s career and is the reason we initially fell in love with them. On night 2 it is swiftly followed by the equally hip-swinging Becoming More Like Alfie and Hannon says of Casanova, the 3rd album to be played in full, ‘I’d finally had some success with the ladies and I wanted to express myself.’
He’s so hugely quotable that we chuckle as he tells the newbies early on in night 2: ‘You know what this is going to be? No going on the internet afterwards and saying: ‘It was a bit 1996.’
Of A Short Album About Love, Hannon says: ‘An album where I was saying: ‘I want love and can you arrange it for me? But it did happen eventually.’ Track Everybody Knows (That I Love You) is, we think, 1 of the finest ever pop songs, containing a beautifully simple pop lyric, evoking some of the greatest ever 60s love songs but sounding completely unique at the same time.
It’s towards the end of the 2nd show where Hannon really excels himself and the crowd goes wild for the mock-Eurovision entry from Channel 4’s comedy Father Ted and Noel Coward cover Marvellous Party.
We’re such weirdos we’re going to all 5 nights and will write a fuller review at the run’s conclusion. But we just had to file now because, after only 2 nights, this is proving both an astonishing feat of memory but also hugely entertaining.
Who needs Desert Island Discs when you could be accompanied by Hannon and his 10-piece band with their back catalogue of more than 100 of the finest pop songs written over the last 30 years or so? Absolutely divine.