LIVE REVIEW: The Divine Comedy @ The London Palladium

LIVE REVIEW: The Divine Comedy @ The London Palladium
© Kevin Westenberg

Neil Hannon came on stage dressed in a plain suit, a matching plain tie and a white shirt. Now 51-years-old, he barely looked a day older than when he posed with similar attire for the covers of the Liberation (1993) and Promenade (1994) albums.

The band opened with the song "Absent Friends", from the album of the same name, which Hannon told XS Noize was the most essential for anyone who hadn’t listened to The Divine Comedy before. As well as being a powerful and emotive song in its own right, the accordion taking centre stage added potency to the induced elation. The prominence of the accordion continued as the band played dance floor filler, “At the Indie Disco”. This unlikely combination worked to perfection. The accordion was also featured on “To the Rescue”, which Hannon dedicated to Battersea Dogs Home.

The accordion was swapped for a seaside/bingo hall style organ on “Becoming More Like Alfie”. While this is a classic guaranteed to wow Divine Comedy fans, the new arrangements added even more vitality to this flawless song. As well as those grand and obvious arrangement changes, there were also more subtle ones on “Generation Sex,” where the spoken word on the backing track, traditionally recited in English by an American woman, was recited in a foreign language. Hannon then followed this song up by playing out the first half of his show with “Gin Soaked Boy”.

The Divine Comedy opened up the second half with a solemn yet poignant modern classic, “A Lady of a Certain Age”. Whilst the all-seated Palladium remained stoic throughout this song, supernova explosions of emotion were released during the applause. The ensemble went on to play the “Father Ted” theme song they wrote, “Songs of Love”, which remains as warming and heartfelt as it was when released back in the nineties. Using plastic flowers for maracas, reminiscent of those featured on the new Charmed Life Best of cover, Hannon demonstrated that “Daddy’s Car” had also matured like a fine wine.

When The Divine Comedy toured Office Politics in 2019, they demonstrated their ability to impress with new material. Each of the 12 songs performed from Office Politics went down triumphantly. The only thing missing from that 2019 tour was any material from Regeneration.

This time around, Hannon corrected this by playing three songs from Regeneration: “Love What You Do”, “Bad Ambassador”, and “Perfect Love Song”. Considering Regeneration is The Divine Comedy’s most experimental LP to date, their ability to get the audience singing and hand waving to these songs, especially “Perfect Love Song,” is impressive. Furthermore, The Divine Comedy didn’t forget Office Politics by playing the emotive “Norma and Norman”. Unlike many bands who have made it into their third decade, few can claim to have sacrosanct staples from their most recent full-length album.

Hannon demonstrated glorious theatrics. He pretended to collapse on “Our Mutual Friend” after singing the lyric, “We fell unconscious”. Towards the end of the second half, The Divine Comedy saved their biggest selling singles till last. “Something for the Weekend” and “National Express” raised everyone from their seats. However, this was not the end. The band returned to play an encore of three more songs, including “The Frog Princess”, and ended the show with “Tonight We Fly”. Also, the final track on two of their Best Of compilations was the perfect end to another exemplary live performance.

INTERVIEW: Neil Hannon on Charmed Life - The Best Of The Divine Comedy, the new Wonka prequel & more - Listen here.

Xsnoize Author
Michael Barron 293 Articles
Michael first began writing whilst studying at university; reviewing the latest releases and live gigs. He has since contributed to the Fortean Times as well as other publications. Michael’s musical tastes vary from Indie to psychedelic, folk and dubstep.

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