Every Horse has its Year
By Fiona Carter
The Divine Comedy: Shepherd's Bush Empire
It's been a good year for the The Divine Comedy with the commercial success of the single Something For the Weekend and the rather less welcome attention that their musical involvement with the Father Ted sitcom has generated.
The audience, already warmed-up from pogoing to The Frank and Walters, gave Divine Comedy an eager welcome. Hannon sauntered onto the stage, beginning his set with Bath, leading into Tonight we Fly, then Middle Class Heroes: the intro eerily reminiscent of the late Vivian Stanshall. Throughout the performance, Hannon's influences came through clearly: the lavish orchestration of Michael Nyman, the accomplished vocals of Scott Walker, and the timeless melodies and arrangements of Burt Bacharach and John Barry. Despite paying homage so candidly to his mentors, Hannon's pick'n'mix pop patchwork develops into a clear and coherent style all of his own. His rather wry British sense of humour and seeming inability to take himself seriously could so easily degenerate into camp and hammy self-mockery, but in this performance never crossed that line.
"I need to smoke or else I don't feel beautiful". Hannon lit a cigarette before ending the first set with The Frog Princess, yet another rather twisted tale of love and The Divine Comedy's next single.
After the pressure from the live recording, the first encore A Drinking Song allowed Neil to lighten up a little
Hannon's ensemble with the 30 Piece orchestra looked far too big for the stage, incompatible with the squashed and heaving crowd, but then Hannon's speciality is mixing together that which should not match.
The set included two covers: a rather disappointing version of American Music Club's Johnny Mathis' Feet and a passionate and powerful version of Scott Walker's classic Make it Easy, assisted by guest Elvis da Costa on vocals.
The second set consisted of eight numbers, the first seven of which will make up their next live mini-album A Short Album about Love. This will be released on February 10th. (Just in time for Valentine's Day). It included some powerful new songs, notably If.. and If I were You I'd be Through With Me.
After the pressure from the live recording, the first encore A Drinking Song allowed Neil to lighten up a little, and saw him clambering up onto the piano, throwing lager around: over himself, the audience. Followed up by Something for the Weekend, Neil's voice was now showing signs of exhaustion, this energetic performance and the day spent working on the recording of the new album taking its toll.
The final encore was a rather dramatic and moving The Dogs and the Horses, particularly so because by this time Neil was gasping and chucking Guinness down his neck, but still managed to do his famous 'slam dance' into the audience. The fact that £9 tickets for this show were changing hands for £90 makes me think that somehow, he will be too famous to be allowed to do this for much longer.