Thursday 27 October 2016

The Divine Comedy at De La Warr Pavillion (Bexhill), Tuesday 25th October 2016

In the small, seaside town of Bexhill-on-Sea, The Divine Comedy put on one hell of a show on Tuesday evening. With the release of Foreverland a month or so ago, it was half-expected that we would be treated to tracks from the album, with perhaps an encore of National Express. What became apparent from the start, was that Hannon was keen to share an array of treasures from his magnificent back catalogue as well as some of the new tracks; it was a truly spectacular show.
Photo Courtesy of Jeff Miles
Proceedings kicked off with Irish support artist Lisa O'Neil, who also joined Hannon on stage later to duet on new album track, Funny Peculiar. Other tracks played from the newest release included How Can You Leave Me On My Own, Catherine the Great and To the Rescue- all very popular with the crowd. There were some fabulous costume changes that brought some fitting theatricality to Hannon's performance; my personal favourite being Neil's Napoleon tribute which he looked suitably majestic in! 

The arrangements sounded incredible live, with the accordion working well in place of strings on the orchestral sections of album tracks. The band were stunning and their backing vocals accompanied Hannon perfectly, making the whole show appear effortless. Having said that, there were a few moments where we saw Neil slip up (quite literally as he mounted one of the speakers at the front of the stage!) which made his rapport with the crowd even more endearing as he made fun of himself. His humour and character-acting to tracks like The Complete Banker showed what a seasoned and charismatic performer Hannon truly is; in truth, I was in awe of him a lot of the time.

By a complete fluke, despite booking separately, my partner and I and the rest of my family were seated directly next to each other. In front of us were two lively ladies who were clearly in their element. What was lovely to see was Hannon announce a tribute for someone's birthday- that someone being the woman in front. She was brought to tears by Neil's rendition of Cilla Black's Alfie- and my god, was it beautiful! What a special moment for her.

We were truly spoiled by the setlist: Something for the Weekend, Absent Friends, Our Mutual Friend, A Lady of a Certain Age and The Frog Princess (to name but a few) were performed. It was an excellent showcase of what Neil has achieved and for many it was a trip down memory lane. I hope the band would agree that it was a good crowd who were up for singing along and interacting. The atmosphere was one of celebration and love for the music.   

And when it couldn't get any more uplifting, we were welcomed down to Hannon's own 'Indie Disco'. Couples of all walks of life took to the small dance floor space in front of the stage; like he was choreographing his own live music video, Hannon seemed to genuinely enjoy his fans and their enthusiasm. And of course no gig is complete without a token lone reveller on the balcony by the stage waving his arms in ecstasy- always a superb sight to behold.

As mentioned, the band played tracks from nearly all of The Divine Comedy's albums which was exactly what the crowd thrived on, being full of those that have followed Neil through his whole career (or at least, like me, enjoyed discovering the whole back catalogue in more recent years). For me, there is nothing that compares to seeing an artist that you adore live. The Divine Comedy are something unique and hard to come by nowadays when the charts seem less diverse, and more established artists tend to be seen to have outlived their shelf lives. 

I hope Neil Hannon continues to tour in the future as he is such a talent. 
When he does, I will be there in a heartbeat.
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