Oh no! Not another review of a Divine Comedy gig?

 

I know, a bit boring. I was not going to do it. But live The Divine Comedy – the vehicle for Neil Hannon’s quirky, often conceptual, pop music – evolves compellingly. What do I mean?

Hannon released his latest album, Office Politics in the summer. He is currently on tour with it, hence the show that we saw at the Brighton Dome on 16 October 2019. It is a non-prog concept album. There is a theme of the daily drudge and meaninglessness of work infused within. The title track has much that we recognise in the modern office: zealous employers, impropriety with photocopiers, powerpoint presentations, etc. It is funny and very Neil Hannon, at least lyrically, if not in vocal style.

The album also has some – what Hannon himself referred to as – radio hits on it such as Norman and Norma which reminds me very much of Billy Joel’s destructive couple, Brenda and Eddie (Scenes From An Italian Restaurant). Though Norman and Norma rescue their relationship by 1066 re-enactments. Brenda and Eddie are not quite so lucky. There’s the Life and Soul of the Party – a homage to awful office Christmas parties. Again, much for us to relate to. Unfortunately.

What I thought was the stand-out track on the album, You’ll Never Work in this Town Again, translates well on stage and keeps the working – or in this case, non-work – theme going. I’m a Stranger Here, additionally is a wonderful mix of time travel, work and alienation?

OK, so to the show. The set has a very large clock hanging behind the players. There are two doors, one in, one out. There is a desk with an aged monitor sitting on it (the office is seems dated around the early nineties, though references to zero-hour contracts and copies of the Human League’s Dare album as part of the cover art suggest a certain temporal confusion). A telephone receiver is used as a percussion instrument (right).

Hannon enters the stage from the in door to cheers. He is dressed in a bright red/orange suit (we know that on other dates he has a blue and white suit). In contrast to previous concerts we have seen, Hannon concentrates on the singing – only on a few occasions does he pick up his acoustic guitar.

I was wondering whether Hannon would attempt to present The Synthesiser Service Centre Super Summer Sale. This seems to be a paen to old synthesiser technology. It is really a list of former machines with obvious nostalgic attachment. On stage, this track works so well. This is almost Stockhausen in its composition. Coupled with some simple but effective lighting, I could have listened to this all evening.

Incidentally, did I miss Opportunity Knox where Billy Bird leaves without a word? We got Come Home Billy Bird

Then there is Philip and Steve’s Furniture Removal Company, a celebration of the former New York business of Philip Glass and Steve Reich. Hannon uses this as an opportunity to complete the theatrics. A number of the crew don brown coats and hats and start dismantling the drum kit, removing the doors and covering the keyboards with dust covers. This provides the excuse for the encore to be quasi-acoustic (left). The Encore leaves Office Politics behind (though having already presented National Express, Indy Disco, Absent Friends, A Lady of a Certain Age and Something for the Weekend) and presents two favourites and Hannon anthems: Songs of Love and Tonight we Fly. This is Hannon really at his best, surrounded by trusted musicians and a platform for his wonderful lyrical and vocal range.

Band: Andrew Skeet, Ian Watson, Simon Little, Tim Weller and Tosh Flood.

1 comment so far

  1. […] have seen Richard Hawley a few times now. Unlike with Neil Hannon, the format is pretty much text book. Hawley leads, a reliable and familiar band support; and so […]


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