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Live Review: The Divine Comedy with Jealous of the Birds at Birmingham Institute – 24th November 2017

By on Thursday, 7th December 2017 at 2:00 pm

It had been a good 11 years since I’d first visited Birmingham in the West Midlands. What better reason to return is there but a gig? Formerly the HMV Institute and now part of the O2 empire, the Institute was once a church and even a civic hall of Birmingham City Council. But these days, the only collars you’ll likely see in here are those on leather jackets. Brum was only the third stop on The Divine Comedy’s winter 2017 tour, following Edinburgh and Leeds and in support of Neil Hannon’s most recent album ‘Foreverland’, released in September 2016. My review of the LP is through here.

Opening for Hannon and crew was Naomi Hamilton, better known in the indie music blogosphere by her more fanciful nom de plume Jealous of the Birds. She performed solely with her voice and guitar. The heavily pierced songwriter commented that her stage setup was decidedly ‘granny chic’; it included a Divine Comedy mug she admitted she nicked from the merch table outside. She began with the catchy ‘Goji Berry Sunset’, a single that was a longtime staple on BBC 6 Music long before we caught up with her at SXSW 2016. There was something enchantingly arresting by her performance, as she sung and played the title track of her 2016 album ‘Parma Violets’ completely at ease. She ended her all too short set with a haunting cover of ‘Suzanne’, a wonderful tribute to the late Leonard Cohen.

Jealous of the Birds Birmingham

Trying to describe the numerous emotions and topics Neil Hannon has touched upon during the many years The Divine Comedy have been in action would be a difficult exercise. He’s gone through a good number of phases over nearly 3 decades, most recently being funny about cricket with the Duckworth Lewis Method in 2009, guffawing at the unlikelihood of being recognised by the Queen in 2010’s ‘Bang Goes the Knighthood’ and last year’s ‘Foreverland’. On his latest album, it appears his preoccupation with things French (‘Napoleon Complex’), female monarchs (‘Catherine the Great’) and indeed, the female he holds dearest in his life, fellow musician and partner Cathy Davey, have directed him artistically as of late.

In the ‘90s version of The Divine Comedy, back when there were actually other members of the band besides Hannon, songs like ‘Everybody Knows (Except You)’ showed his sweeter, cuddlier innocent side. On the other end of the spectrum, ‘Generation Sex’, ‘Something for the Weekend’ and ‘Becoming More Like Alfie’ proved there was a naughtier, sleazier version of the songwriter all too eager to come out. He was the kind of artist who could get away with this kind of frank songwriting because ultimately, he was singing of the things that didn’t come up in polite conversation but the rest of us were dying to say.

Divine Comedy Birmingham 1

He sings all too joyfully about the ‘National Express’ – which, incidentally, brought me from Manchester Airport to Birmingham that afternoon – without it coming across too schmaltzy. The brilliance that is ‘At the Indie Disco’ even came across fresher than its first airing around the release of ‘Bang Goes the Knighthood’: at the mention of “she makes my heart beat the same way / as at the start of ‘Blue Monday’”, he and his band launched into an entirely unexpected interlude, a cover of the New Order classic, complete with seizure-inducing strobe lighting. Hannon clearly has wonderful rapport with his current live band, calling his piano- and accordion-playing bandmate a man with a “squeezy” and thanking his guitar tech for bringing him one of his axes with, “yes, I know what that is! A strummy strum strum!” If I didn’t know he was nearly 50 and could only hear him, I’d guess he was probably half his actual age. Do men ever grow up? Ha, I guess not.

Martin previously wrote about The Divine Comedy’s headline appearance at this year’s Deer Shed, proclaiming that Hannon was the best headliner to date of the family-friendly festival in Baldersby Park. Certainly, seeing an artist like him in a listed building like the Institute is going to be an entirely different experience than you’d have at an open-air festival. While I did enjoy the show, the gimmickry of Hannon’s Napoleon-esque costume, along with a refusal to lay down in the pit as he has in other places such as in Bristol because the floor was gross seemed a bit prima donna. I guess of all people, Neil Hannon is allowed to be so. As an Irish national treasure and a songwriting genius, he’s earned that right.

Divine Comedy Birmingham 2

After the cut: The Divine Comedy’s set list.
Continue reading Live Review: The Divine Comedy with Jealous of the Birds at Birmingham Institute – 24th November 2017


The Divine Comedy / November and December 2017 UK/Irish Tour

By on Wednesday, 31st May 2017 at 9:00 am

Neil Hannon’s very existence will always be linked to the band he has fronted and masterminded for over 2 decades, The Divine Comedy. Last year, he released ‘Foreverland’, the 11th Divine Comedy album. My review of it before its September 2016 release is through here. Tickets to the shows from mid-November in the UK into mid-December in Ireland are on sale now. To catch up on all of TGTF’s coverage on The Divine Comedy, follow this link.

Wednesday 22nd November 2017 – Edinburgh Usher Hall
Thursday 23rd November 2017 – Leeds Academy
Friday 24th November 2017 – Birmingham Institute
Sat 25th November 2017 – Cardiff University Great Hall
Sunday 26th November 2017 – Bristol Colston Hall
Tuesday 28th November 2017 – Manchester Ritz
Wednesday 29th November 2017 – London Hammersmith Apollo
Thursday 30th November 2017 – Bournemouth Academy
Friday 1st December 2017 – Brighton Dome
Saturday 2nd December 2017 – Norwich LCR at the UEA
Monday 4th December 2017 – Cork Opera House
Tuesday 5th December 2017 – Limerick University Concert Hall
Wednesday 6th December 2017 – Derry Millennium Forum
Thursday 7th December 2017 – Belfast Ulster Hall
Friday 8th December 2017 – Dublin Olympia


Album Review: The Divine Comedy – Foreverland

By on Wednesday, 31st August 2016 at 12:00 pm

The Divine Comedy Foreverland album coverNeil Hannon is often referred to as an “unlikely pop star”, and that’s fine by him. At the age of 45 and with an incredible 10 wit-filled albums under his belt as the guiding light of The Divine Comedy, not to mention his notable association with the incomparable Father Ted in the ’90s, the Northern Irish singer/songwriter should be allowed whatever sobriquet he wants. His most recent records have allowed him the latitude to lambast the rich (2010’s ‘Bang Goes the Knighthood’) and indulge in his love of cricket through The Duckworth Lewis Method’s two albums in 2010 and 2012.

With ‘Foreverland’, which will be available starting this Friday, he’s chosen to focus in on his now domesticated life in Dublin. In Hannon’s words, “it’s about meeting your soul mate and living happily ever after… and then what comes after happily ever after”. The album seems to begin on an inexplicable note with ‘Napoleon Complex’. The catchy little number can’t be mistaken for anything else but a jab at himself for being a genius despite only being 5 foot 7. However, I like this as a start to an album, as it signals to the listener that you’re in for an enjoyable time and things aren’t likely to ever get too serious. Or are they?

There are two things that Neil Hannon has always done well with the Divine Comedy: a gentle grace, often accompanied with humour. The sweet-sounding title track follows the wee little Frenchman, the lilt in Hannon’s voice accompanied with restrained piano and flute and backing vocals, taking things down a notch in tempo. Hannon’s ‘Foreverland’ isn’t so much a physical place but a mental one you can reach when everything finally falls into place. For Hannon, this means living in a nice house with his wife Cathy Davey and enjoying being a dad. The journeys in life we take often prove arduous but in this song, Hannon offers solace that it does indeed exist: “everybody thinks it’s all lies / until they can see Foreverland”.

‘Funny Peculiar’ is an engaging duet between him and Davey, its simplistic nature managing to strike just the right balance of lovey-doveyness without being cloying. Of a similar disposition, ‘My Happy Place’ is a strange, albeit sweetly inoffensive entry. You’re left imagining Neil Hannon in the lotus position, trying to achieve zen. Do the Irish meditate? It’s difficult to picture. ‘Other People’ allows him a more believable angle. In his unique storytelling way, Hannon sings in this understated, soothingly orchestrated Broadway-style number the facts of being in a relationship later on life. There’s a resignation that partners have had lovers before and but this is for the best, as past lovers have made said partners better. Oh, and jealousy is an absurd waste of time.


As mentioned previously, this album has droll wit down pat too, though perhaps in insufficient amount for the casual listener. In tuneful lead single ‘Catherine the Great’, he describes one of Russia’s greatest monarchs with the hilarious lyrics “She could defeat anyone that she liked / and she looked so bloody good on a horse / that they couldn’t wait for her to invade”. Exhibiting ELO and 10cc’s influences on this record, you can’t deny the silliness of stomper ‘How Can You Leave Me on Your Own’. Without his better half and left to his own devices, he’s useless, lost and prone to eating too many biscuits, and he’s not afraid to admit it.


There is also additional heft to this album that might be missed in a cursory listen of it. While ‘The Pact’ could be viewed as a lightweight nod to the bond of marriage, I became convinced after reading this interview with European arts channel Arte that the song and the resolute ‘To the Rescue’ might have a political meaning. Last November, Hannon won the Oh Yeah Legend Award as part of Sound of Belfast 2015, noting in the interview that it was terrible what should have been a great day and honour was tainted by the Paris terror attacks that occurred the same day. While he’s not known to tackle heavy subjects regularly, I doff my cap to him.

While ‘Foreverland’ might not chart as highly as its predecessor ‘Bang Goes the Knighthood’, this LP is Neil Hannon’s collective ode to finding ‘The One Who Loves You’. The person who will hold your hand into the sunset, while a banjo gaily jangles in the background. And Neil Hannon, firmly in the grip of middle age, is okay with that.


‘Foreverland’, the 11th Divine Comedy album helmed by Neil Hannon, will be released this Friday, the 2nd of September, on his own Divine Comedy Records. The tour to support this new album will begin in early October, on the 7th of October at Aberystwyth Arts Centre and continue through the end of the month, then start up again in February 2017 with a short run of dates that includes 2 nights at the London Palladium. Tour dates are listed here; for more of TGTF’s coverage on The Divine Comedy, follow this link.


Video of the Moment #2120: The Divine Comedy

By on Tuesday, 21st June 2016 at 6:00 pm

Ahead of the release of the eleventh album from The Divine Comedy, ‘Foreverland’, due out in September, Neil Hannon has revealed the promo video for lead single ‘Catherine the Great’. In a style usual to Hannon, he takes what might be a serious topic – the longest-ruling leader of Russia and from all accounts, not altogether a bad ruler in the grand scheme of things – and provides a cheeky commentary on the life of the enlightened despot. Try not to guffaw out loud like I did when you watch the video below. On second thought, let it all out. We all need a laugh every now and again, don’t we?

‘Foreverland’ will be released on the 2nd of September on Divine Comedy Records. Details to previously announced tour dates are listed here. For more on the Divine Comedy on TGTF, check out our coverage of Neil Hannon’s doings here.



The Divine Comedy / October 2016 and February 2017 UK/Irish Tour

By on Wednesday, 1st June 2016 at 9:00 am

Following on from the initial announcement in May, The Divine Comedy has added on another London date to his previously announced UK and Irish tour for October 2016 and February 2017. The continuing solo project of legendary Northern Irish singer/songwriter Neil Hannon will be adding another album to its now massive back catalogue of work: on the 2nd of September, he will be releasing ‘Foreverland’, his first true Divine Comedy album since 2010’s ‘Bang Goes the Knighthood’. (Hannon has been busy with plenty of other things in the meantime, including co-penning the second album for the cricket-themed act The Duckworth Lewis Method; composed a choral work for the newly renovated organ in the Royal Festival Hall, entitled ‘To Our Fathers in Distress’; and oversaw the transfer of his musical Swallows And Amazons to the West End stage. ::cough, wheeze::)

Tickets to all the shows below are on sale but be forewarned, some of these venues are pretty small (I’m still shaking my head at Sheffield Foundry in particular), several dates are already sold out, and the first London Palladium date sold out in less than 48 hours. In other words, be quick!

Friday 7th October 2016 – Aberystwyth Arts Centre
Saturday 8th October 2016 – Cardiff Tramshed
Sunday 9th October 2016 – Bristol St. Georges (sold out)
Tuesday 11th October 2016 – Leeds City Varieties Music Hall (sold out)
Wednesday 12th October 2016 – Glasgow Royal Concert Hall
Friday 14th October 2016 – Liverpool St. George’s Hall (sold out)
Saturday 15th October 2016 – Sheffield Foundry
Sunday 16th October 2016 – Scunthorpe Baths Hall
Monday 17th October 2016 – Gateshead Sage
Wednesday 19th October 2016 – Leamington Spa Assembly Rooms
Thursday 20th October 2016 – Cambridge Junction
Friday 21st October 2016 – Folkestone Quarterhouse
Saturday 22nd October 2016 – Norwich Open
Monday 24th October 2016 – Birmingham Town Hall
Tuesday 25th October 2016 – Bexhill De La Warr Pavilion
Tuesday 21st February 2017 London Palladium (sold out)
Wednesday 22nd February 2017 London Palladium (added date)
Saturday 25th February 2017 Manchester Albert Hall
Sunday 26th February 2017 Dublin Bord Gáis Energy Theatre


Divine Comedy (Neil Hannon) / October and November 2010 UK Tour

By on Wednesday, 14th July 2010 at 9:00 am

The Divine Comedy, currently now just celebrated singer/songwriter/musician Neil Hannon, has announced a UK tour for October and November. Tickets are on sale now and are £17.50, except for the London Royal Festival Hall date, which are £25. I’ve been begging for stateside dates but you can watch him play old favourites and soon to be new ones from the Divine Comedy’s latest full-length, ‘Bang Goes the Knighthood’ at a venue near you.

Sunday 3rd October 2010 – Belfast Waterfront Studio
Monday 4th October 2010 – Belfast Waterfront Studio
Monday 1st November 2010 – Newcastle Sage 2
Tuesday 2nd November 2010 – Aberdeen Lemon Tree
Wednesday 3rd November 2010 – Glasgow Oran Mor
Friday 5th November 2010 – Reading Concert Hall
Saturday 6th November 2010 – Bristol Anson Rooms
Monday 8th November 2010 – Cardiff The Gate
Tuesday 9th November 2010 – Manchester Academy 2
Wednesday 10th November 2010 – London Royal Festival Hall
Thursday 11th November 2010 – Sheffield Leadmill
Friday 12th November 2010 – Cambridge West Concert Hall
Sunday 14th November 2010 – Brighton Komedia
Monday 15th November 2010 – Bournemouth Academy
Tuesday 16th November 2010 – Oxford Academy
Wednesday 17th November 2010 – Warwick Arts Centre

If you want to know what the fuss is about, check out this video of Hannon talking about the new album; he also sings ‘At the Indie Disco’ (you’ve likely heard this one) with just piano as accompaniment.



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