Gig Review + Photography by John McEvoy

A cold and windy November evening in Leeds saw a welcome return of The Divine Comedy, a great British band fronted by their founder Neil Hannon. Many people have said that their best days are behind them, but if last night’s performance was anything to go by, they couldn’t be more wrong.

The Divine Comedy

Before they took the stage, we were treated to ‘Jealous of the Birds’, a solo acoustic fronted by the very talented Naomi Hamilton. She delivered a delightful 30 minute set which contained understated but masterful ballads incorporating skilful use of loops to enhance the quality of the tunes. Her cover of Leonard Cohen’s ‘Suzanne’ would I’m sure have been approved of by the man himself. Her singing style was to this reviewer at least reminiscent of an early Tracey Thorne which as far as I’m concerned no bad thing at all. In a market place full of acoustic performers ‘Jealous of Birds’ stand out. Get a gig on Jools Holland and I’m sure she will be destined for great things. Check out her album ‘Parma Violets’ and you will see what I mean.

The Divine Comedy took the stage at 8:45 and it was clear from the off that they were in fine form. Their founding member Neil Hannon is a natural frontman and throughout the evening enjoyed loads of banter with the audience, and his own band, and his self-deprecating manner quickly endeared himself and the band to the crowd. It’s been a year since the release of the last album ‘Foreverland’ so with no new material to push this was a wonderful trawl through their back catalogue. As they’ve been around since 1989 there was no shortage of material, and it was good to see a band actually put in a decent shift with a full 2 hour set. Curfew is 11:00pm at Leeds and the plugs would have been pulled!

The Divine ComedyThe Divine Comedy

Personal highlights for me were ‘How Can You Leave Me On My Own’ and my absolute favourite from them ‘To The Rescue’ which has one of the lushest arrangements you’re ever likely to hear. The O2 went full on dance mode during ‘At The Indie Disco’ when we were treated to a booming ‘Blue Monday’ interlude. Their faithful rendition of the Peter Sarstedt standard ‘Where Do You Go To My Lovely’ reminded you of just how underrated that song really was.

The Divine Comedy

Whilst the Divine Comedy has always had regular line-up changes, with Neil Hannon being the only constant, if I were him he should stick with this lot. They were as tight a unit as you will see anywhere and all are clearly at the top of their games.

Mid way through the set it was a welcome return to the stage of Napoleon, and of course ‘Napoleon Complex’ which was a huge favourite with the crowd and as the 2 hour set came to a close it was clear how strong their back catalogue really is with and of course ‘National Express’ had the crown bouncing.

The Divine ComedyThe Divine Comedy

As I said at the top of this review, general opinion is that the best days for Divine Comedy are behind them. Don’t believe a word of it, they are a real treasure. Clever lyrics, great musicianship and a healthy sense of humour are quite rare in bands and Divine Comedy have this by the bucket full.

Oh and Neil, you’re right about the Snow Globe, and you can’t pour a beer to save your life…

There are still a few dates on the autumn tour, get yourself a ticket if you can. You won’t regret it!

Recommended listening – Check out this link for their back catalogue.

The Divine ComedyThe Divine Comedy

Set list:

Down in the street below
Do die a virgin
Absent friends
Generation sex
The summerhouse
Catherine the Great
Everybody knows (Except you)
Becoming more like Alfie
Don’t look down
The plough
A lady of a certain age
Where do you go to my lovely
Neapolitan girl
Our mutual friend
How can you leave me on my own
To the rescue
Something for the weekend
At the Indie disco
I like
National express

Encore:

Songs of love
Tonight we fly

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