a short site about The Divine Comedy

The Queens Hall

You know you're at the Fringe when a comedian in a glittery suit, fake tan and wig bounds on stage to croon his rendition of a Top 40 hit.

Never one to disappoint his audience, Divine Comedy frontman Neil Hannon arranged this as he introduced special guest Lenny Beige to sing National Express in high-kicking, arched-eyebrow fashion.

Hannon was so determined to make the £15 tickets value for money that there was little aural evidence of the "bad throat" he professed to be having.

Having recently disbanded then reformed his group with new personnel, Hannon has opted for a stripped-down feel to his performance, with drums, guitar, and double bass supplying backing to his singing, piano playing and guitar work.

The Irishman can afford to do this without losing much of the power of his songs because of the uncanny strength and depth of his voice. His first hit was over eight years ago, but it is still a marvel to hear such an earthy voice emanate from such an elfin frame.

A few years ago at the Fringe, the Divine Comedy appeared in the sweatbox that was the Jaffa Club with Michael Nyman, and ended up being booed offstage after performing only a couple of songs during a miserly short set.

Hannon was not to make the same mistake last night. The band stuck to crowd-pleasers such as the frenetically-paced Generation Sex, the fairytale love song The Frog Princess, and the endearingly sappy Everybody Knows.

Fortunately, much of the crowd had the words to these songs burned into their brains, because on occasion Hannon's throat threatened to give way, or he simply fluffed his lines. "I hate lyrics. I'm not going to write anymore," he proclaimed in frustration at forgetting another line.

The trademark tweed suit may be gone, but he is still a gentleman, and, towards the end of the act, Hannon profusely apologised "for all my f**k-ups".

The new line-up and format of the band works well for the most part. The double bass and grand piano lent the concert a laid-back, jazzy feel which complemented Hannon's lounge-singer ease. However, some of the quieter, more introspective songs seemed to lack momentum and sprawled out into the venue without the subtly complex instrumentation of the studio versions.

Having threatened to bring the roof down on top of them as they demanded an encore, the audience were treated to a final few songs which climaxed with the painfully beautiful Sunrise - a characteristically epic finale.

Stuart Farquhar
The Evening News 09/08/2002