Sometimes life is bittersweet. One such time for me was seeing The Divine Comedy for the 30th time, knowing that the next time I saw the band live it would consist of just Neil Hannon. The front man of TDC has Gone Solo (although he retains the name, as he did once before in 1991), so this would be the last time we’d see Joby, Ivor, Bryan, Rob, Miggy and Pinkie live on a stage together with the boy Neil. Bittersweet indeed.
Killarney’s NEC is one of several venues within the outrageously large Gleneagles Hotel, close to the centre of town but still effectively in the middle of nowhere. The hall makes for a rather odd setting, for a very long stage opens out from the side of the hall. Or what would normally be a side, meaning that the hall has a back-to-front feel. This however is a good thing; one can get very close to the band and sit down if one so wishes. Certainly that’s how we started, as Also Sprach Zarathustra blasted out in celebration of the band’s arrival on-stage. It was a fine dramatic moment – if only it hadn’t given way to the title track of the recent Regeneration album. It isn’t that this last record is bad. But the songs are slower – nay, duller – than anything The Divine Comedy have previously put out. As a result, most fans were delighted to hear that only a few songs from Regeneration would be aired at this gig, taking something of a back seat to earlier material, such as the eminently likable Don’t Look Down, Your Daddy’s Car, set closer Tonight We Fly, Father Ted theme Songs of Love and Through A Long And Sleepless Night.
The sound was good and showed the songs to be so too, but most of the audience were happy to stay in their seats until roused by Thrillseeker, Sweden and National Express in quick succession – the band playing a full version of the famously cringeworthy bus song to rapturous effect. Neil worked hard on this audience which had, we assumed, had its enthusiasm for the band somewhat quelled by the release of Regeneration. By the end of the gig the school disco-like atmosphere had been replaced by one of jubilation that we were again at a Divine Comedy gig and that it was a damned good one.
Quite what we’ll all do with our time while Neil goes away to play family man – or rock God or whatever it will be this tiime – is anyone’s guess. But if anyone fancies writing a concept album featuring piano, strings, oboe and baritone vocals and calling it Promenade sometime soon, they could find a ready marketplace.