LIVE REVIEW: The Divine Comedy at Somerset House
Published on July 24th, 2010 | Jonny Abrams
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Neil Hannon is back with another stunning album under his The Divine Comedy guise and, in celebration of his return to the mainstream – heck, there’s even posters for Bang Goes The Knighthood on London underground – he was invited to play a solo show in the plush and open air environs of London’s exalted Somerset House venue.
After a beautiful support slot from Irish siren Cathy Davey, who appears on a few of BGTK‘s tracks, Hannon took the stage to great applause, adorned by the old school banker’s attire of bowler hat, suit, tie and briefcase. This getup was of course immediately compromised when he launched into the financier-pillorying ‘The Complete Banker’, a song which is at once a simple yet witty denouncement of those to blame for the recession and the kind of insanely catchy tune you’ll find yourself singing first thing in the morning. (Even if you’re a banker.)
Hannon then requested that we “revel in our surroundings” before performing another new number, namely the acerbic call-to-arms that is ‘Assume The Perpendicular’, which aptly features the line: “We don’t want to drink the cider / We don’t want to walk for miles / We just want to see a stately home built in the Georgian style”.
We were then treated to a mix of old favourites such as ‘Tonight We Fly’, ‘Your Daddy’s Car’, ‘Our Mutual Friend’ and ‘Don’t Look Down’ – the latter of which featured an eerie moment when Hannon’s sheet music was sent flapping hither and thither in the wind just as he recited the line “and then he called upon his favourite angel choir” during the song’s ‘private audience with god’ denouement – and new ones, like classic-in-the-making ‘Have You Ever Been In Love?’ and the Ray-Davies-goes-baroque sleazepop of ‘Neapolitan Girl’.After a beautiful rendition of ‘Songs Of Love’, Hannon allowed the audience in on an impromptu little game called ‘What’s In Neil’s Bag?’ – the answer being, in this case, a bag of Haribo, a Bill Bryson book, a hotel chocolate and lots of toilet paper.
The night ended with an encore of ‘Jiggery Pokery’, Hannon’s inspired, Mike Gatting-personifying contribution to last year’s brilliant Duckworth Lewis Method album, and BGTK opener ‘Down In The Street Below’. Back to the street on the other side of Somerset House’s lush confinements, then, for the however many hundreds of people still glowing from a virtuoso solo performance by one of the world’s greatest living musical minds.
The set in full was: The Complete Banker, Assume The Perpendicular, Everybody Knows, Your Daddy’s Car, Pop Singer’s Fear Of The Pollen Count, National Express, If, Neapolitan Girl, Becoming More Like Alfie, Snowball In Negative, Indie Disco, a surprisingly good cover of MGMT’s ‘Time To Pretend’, Geronimo, Don’t Look Down, A Lady Of A Certain Age, Songs Of Love, When A Man Cries, Have You Ever Been In Love?, Our Mutual Friend, Tonight We Fly, Can You Stand Upon One Leg? (dedicated to Hannon’s daughter Willow), I Like, Jiggery Pokery, Down In The Street Below
Bang Goes The Knighthood is out now on Divine Comedy Records.