Gig review by Zyllah Moranne-Brown with photography by Ken Harrison

These guys are one of those bands who cleverly and eloquently comment on life in their lyrics – singer songwriter’s Neil Hannon words are quirky and original and they are here tonight showcasing their eleventh album ‘Foreverland’ – welcome Birmingham to the world of The Divine Comedy.

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First up we have support artist tonight – Lisa O’Neill.    She tells us in her Irish lilt that she’s gonna sing us some songs – as she starts off with her take on ‘Old Man River.’ Think Irish version of Joan Baez – with quirky stories behind her own songs; she’s on stage tonight with a mate from County Galloway – who accompanies her musically. She made a mock Elvis on the back of her door, literally full height, with shoes and everything. You look hungry Elvis she thought, and hence song ‘Elvis I Give You Irish Stew.’ Plant are okay with hibernating, but we don’t like it, gave her inspiration for…. ‘Plants.’ She’s quriky and engaging and ‘has an album’ (entitled as such) out now.

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Quick break – before the main act of the night. The Divine Comedy, surprising formed way back in ’89 in Northern Ireland, singer Songwriter Neil Hannon the only consistent member of the band. New album ‘Foreverland’ proves his on lyrical form – with references to everything from Catherine The Great to the French Foreign Legion. Neil says of the new record, ‘it’s about meeting your soul mate and living happily ever after… and then what comes after happily ever after. Get ready for the most historically inaccurate hit of the summer ‘.

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“Good evening Birmingham….” as we start off on our Divine Comedy journey with ‘Down in the Street Below.’ “Are you ready to listen to me talk about nothing in particular for a couple of hours? Please say yes…”

“Well this is nice…” as Hannon compliments the sold out delectable venue. He ate too much at dinner, besides that he’s spiffing. Alistair, backline, roadie and valet, brings Hannon a hat and cane – as we get a couple of ditties – ‘Bang Goes the Knighthood’ and ‘ The Complete Banker…’ – where his lyrical take on the financial meltdown is bang on the money :

Can anyone lend me ten billion quid? Why do you look so glum, was it something I did? So I caused the second great depression, what can I say? I guess I got a bit carried away…. If I say I’m sorry, will you give me the money? But you know me, the complete banker…’

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Next up we sing along ‘Generation Sex’, and his take on a Cilla Black classic ‘Alfie.’ Before ‘Sweden ‘ eh escapes the stage and comes back regaled as Napoleon, in full French Military attire. ‘Sweden’ is surreal and psychotic – a clatterbang operatic track.  “Why am I dressed as Napoleon? If I told you it would be a lie…” he quips.

The slightly punky ‘How Can You Leave Me on My Own?’ features one of those Hannon lines: ‘When you leave, I become a dickhead, A bad-smelling, couch-dwelling dickhead…’ For ‘I Joined the Foreign Legion’ Alistair is ordered to get that piece of wood that Hannon hits….You should see him [Alistair]  squirreling away in his box of tricks…’ 

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And so to intermission. Or cocktail time! Hannon’s disappeared, the band open up the atlas shaped drinks cabinet and cocktails are made for each band member. It’s just a break in their session that we are invited to – with musical accompaniment of ELO’s ‘ Livin’ Thing.’ A five minute interlude. Hannon is back – Alistair has found him a stool. “We should have provided you all with stools – I’m sorry….. what a tune…” An audience member agrees. “Good man!” responds Hannon. “It’s is. But then so is the Birdie Sing…” he quips.

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“Thanks for being here. But there’s nothing on tele on a Monday night…” as we’ve into the next section – ‘A Lady of a Certain Age’ followed by ‘Catherine the Great’.  Lisa’s back to accompany him on ‘Funny Peculiar.’

I don’t need a stool. Stand up and dance. Stay standing up regardless of how may people are standing….” – it’s ‘At the Indie Disco’ followed by the opening line: “She said, there’s something in the woodshed…..” – ‘Something for the Weekend.’  Set is completed by “National Express’ – a take on life we all sing along to and includes  the immortal line: “She’ll provide you with drinks and theatrical winks
For a sky-high fee, Mini-skirts were in style when she danced down the aisle, Back in ’63, But it’s hard to get by when your arse is the size, Of a small countryyyyy….” We’re singing “ba ba ba da…”

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To the encore with ‘Songs of Love’ and tonight completed by’ Tonight We Fly.’

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Divine Comedy are at their best quirky. Hannon’s unique on their take on life – in the same vein as Elvis Costello or Dilford and Tilbrook – at their best when they are quirkiest. Catch them while they are out and about. I’ll leave you with the lyric to the last song….

 

“Tonight we fly
Over the mountains
The beach and the sea
Over the friends that we’ve known
And those that we now know
And those who we’ve yet to meet

And when we die
Oh, will we be
That disappointed
Or sad

If heaven doesn’t exist
What will we have missed
This life is the best we’ve ever had…”

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Setlist:
Down in the Street Below
Assume the Perpendicular
Bad Ambassador
Bang Goes the Knighthood
The Complete Banker
Generation Sex
Our Mutual Friend
Alfie (Cilla Black)
The Certainty of Chance
Sweden
How Can You Leave Me on My Own
To the Rescue
I Joined the Foreign Legion

*intermission*

A Lady of a Certain Age
Catherine the Great
Funny Peculiar
At the Indie Disco
Something for the Weekend
Becoming More Like Alfie
I Like
National Express

Encore:
Songs of Love
Tonight We Fly

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