a short site about The Divine Comedy

The Largo Pub - Los Angeles

“Hello, Los Angeles!” began a nattily-attired and exhausted-looking Neil Hannon. “We have some songs we’d like to play for you – at least until the jetlag takes over!” With that opening caveat, he gamely plunged into the opening chords of the stirring, image-rich ‘Tonight We Fly’. Accompanied only by the keyboards of collaborator/arranger Joby Talbot and his own nimble guitar strumming, Hannon treated the packed Irish coffeehouse to a rare acoustic set that spanned the Divine Comedy’s three albums, and even found time for a couple of new, as-yet-unrecorded songs.

Only four of the evening’s twelve numbers hailed from Casanova, the Divine Comedy’s impressive new song-cycle about life in the trenches of the eternal Man-Woman-Desire conflict; but while that album’s orchestral arrangements are one of its most arresting aspects, the stripped-down presentation made the lyrical bite of ‘Something For The Weekend’ and ‘Becoming More Like Alfie’ seem even sharper. Coming off like Scott Walker (he even covered Walkers’ version of Jacques Brel’s ‘Jackie’) with a self-deprecating sense of humor, Hannon achieved a remarkable rapport with the audience, most of whom were obviously familiar with his material; clearly surprised and touched by his ecstatic reception – certain members of the crowd even whistled on cue during the chorus of ‘Frog Princess’ – he poured every last ounce of energy and charm into his performance.

Everyone in the room either wanted to be him or go home with him, even before he closed the set with a rendition of Casanova’s ‘The Dogs & The Horses’ that was so devastatingly bleak you could see people in front burying their faces in their hands and hear the air being sucked from awed lungs. A phenomenal performance, it begged the question of what Hannon could do with a full band and a crowded theater.

Dan Epstein
Launch 24/09/1997