a short site about The Divine Comedy

Riverside Studios

From the moment Neil Hannon and co take the stage, its obvious that this evening's show is going to be more like watching Sonic Youth dubbed with Irish accents than the band who did the Father Ted theme. The only difference being that these days, The Divine Comedy are taking more risks than Sonic Youth.

After an ambient play-on tape, the band launch into a set focusing heavily on material from the new 'Regeneration' album. Nigel Godrich's (Radiohead, Travis) production skills hang heavy over the hour and a half set, but the 7-piece never let that stand in the way of their skilled stagecraft. During the second, un-introduced song, Hannon sings 'I wanna play with the big boys'. His time is surely now, more than ever.

'Tonight We Fly' is, in latterday Divine Comedy terms at least, like 'Something For The Weekend', but that's as close as we come all evening to old-school. 'Dumb It Down' is the most inevitable 'Radiohead' moment, whilst 'Lost Property' meanders around it's subject matter with convincing arrogance.

Half-way through the set we see a turning point. This is The Divine Comedy of old but screwed-up, disguising the hits, yet revealing a new, fresher sounding band, confident that older numbers like 'Sweden' and 'Generation Sex' will sound lightweight next to monsters like 'Note To Self'. Herein Neil Hannon truly rocks out, purging himself of a week's demons over the course of six minutes. 'Eye Of The Needle' follows, incorporating the most devastating couplet of his career. "All through the sermon I stare at the people, they're squeezing themselves through the eye of a needle'. Yet after a beautifully ramshackle encore ('National Express', 'Alfie'), the band are gone.

Imagine Radiohead if they'd made 'Kid A' without listening to any Warp records. Try to imagine the sheer majesty of the new single 'Love What You Do' given an even newer lease of life in a live environment. That's Divine Comedy in 2001. Craftsmen who've downed their old tools and picked up new ones, only to find, by some lucky fluke, that they're more than skilled with those too.

Jake Kennedy
dotmusic 26/01/2001