With tour-long support from Food’s newest signing Matthew Jay and his motley band of shaggy-haired chums warming the audience up nicely for the rock band to follow, Cambridge greeted Neil Hannon and the other six members of The Divine Comedy ecstatically.
For their part, the band opened without much ceremony on a Love What You Do note, leading straight into the always-fabulous Tonight We Fly and forthcoming single Bad Ambassador. A start with gusto goes a long way in a gig to ensuring everyone comes away glowing no matter what happens next. What did happen next was a long set with at least one track from every album, including acoustic versions of The Frog Princess and National Express and some rockier moments, including I’m All You Need (which nearly merged into Robert Palmer‘s Addicted To Love until Neil decided he couldn’t remember the lyrics and then publically wondered why anyone would), Lucy, Sweden and Status Quo‘s Pictures of Matchstick Men, one really can’t complain. Your Daddy’s Car and Perfect Lovesong were simply chocolate treats.
The sound was mercifully sorted relative to other Divine Comedy gigs this year and the new songs sounded so much the better for it. On balance the songs are better live than they are on the just-released album, Regeneration, whose title track still features Rob Farrer – tonight the birthday boy – on guitar white noise rather than his more traditional percussive assemblage. Ivor Talbot on guitar becomes more eye-catching with each passing performance, while the unrelated Joby Talbot, sporting a quite hideous yellow short sleeved checked shirt, seemed to be playing several instruments simultaneously on several tracks, particularly Heart Of Darkn…, ooops, I mean Note To Self. Neil shows no signs of venturing to the barber’s any time soon and seems to enjoy the Jesus Christ/John Lennon/Liam Gallagher look that is such a far cry from his last incarnation as a besuited lounge lizard. The shades may have gone, but his forelocks have grown long enough to cover his eyes. Miggy Barradas, as long-time Divine afficionados will testify, was as excellent as we’ve come to expect, smiling most of the way through. Bryan Mills has resorted to his bass again, after earlier forays into glockenspiel and keyboard on Timestretched, which has mercifully been culled from the live set. Which leaves Stu Pinkie Bates and his trombone – and several entranced girlies next to us seemed to be watching his every change of note.
Even when Neil (I suspect deliberately) mucked up his older songs, the evening remained faultless; a superb atmosphere, sound, set and on-form band contributing to a very special evening.