22 February 2017 at The London Palladium
The last time I saw The Divine Comedy live was around 2001 when they toured as a double headliner with Ben Folds. I still remember that gig now and often cite it as one of my all time favourite nights of music. Perhaps that’s why I stupidly chose to wait an inordinate amount of time to see them again. I mean, could it ever be any better than that?
Well of course it could. Following the release of their album Foreverland last year a set of tour dates in the UK and Europe were announced. I couldn’t make any of the first set of UK dates, but luckily some more were added for 2017. And so the long wait began until it was time to see Neil Hannon and co live again.
Cut to February 2017. I got to the London Palladium in good time and paid a visit to the merch stand to bag myself a tour t-shirt. My friend was already in his seat when I finally found him and we both took in the great view we had of the stage from up in the circle. I was convinced that I had been to this beautiful venue before, but for the life of me could not remember what I had seen there in the past.
The support act was a lovely lady called Lisa O’Neill who started her set with an Irish standard where she took to the stage completely alone and sung unaccompanied. It was a very brave way to start and it certainly let us hear the power in her voice. Her short set contained songs from her latest album Pothole In The Sky which she excitedly told us had finally been granted a distribution release in the UK. I was very intrigued by her voice, it certainly reminded me of someone that I couldn’t quite put my finger on, and I enjoyed her storytelling through her songs and her humour with the audience. It was a very nice prelude to the main event.
There was a great cheer with the band took to the stage at around 9pm with Neil walking on dressed in a full Napoleon outfit complete with hat. Starting with How Can You Leave Me On My Own it set the scene very nicely for a trip through some of the new tracks as well as the bands vast back catalogue.
Neil explained that he was suffering from a cold which was why his voice was struggling a tad, but he fought through it only stopping a couple of times for a bit of medicinal help. The first being when he took a short steam break with a towel over his head. Whether there may have also been a nip of whiskey under there aswell I cannot say…
Working their way through the set list including the song about “the Napoleon thing” and the latest single as such To The Rescue it was a chance for the band to air songs from Foreverland. I did laugh to myself when Neil came down onto the front of the stage and wandered along the barrier singing stopping only to kick someone’s coat onto the floor as he paraded past.
Taking in a brief costume change, the band continued to play as Neil disappeared off stage only to arrive back as a city gent dressed in a suit including umbrella and bowler hat. “If you thought the silly costume had gone you are very wrong” he quipped as he pointed his umbrella into the air. We were also treated to a musical interlude of Herb Albert as The Spanish Flea filled the room from a record player on the stage as Neil danced around and got the band a drink from the globe drinks cabinet positioned at the front. It was certainly a sight to behold.
Coming down into the audience numerous times throughout the evening, us upstairs had to lean over the balcony to see what was causing so much amusement downstairs at one point. I managed to look down and catch a glimpse of Neil laying on the floor in the aisle with his eyes shut. Now I’ve never seen that at a gig before.
The hits came hard and fast towards the end as we all got to our feet to dance along to Something For The Weekend, National Express and At The Indie Disco. It was fabulous to feel the floor underneath my feet bounce and see the folks down the front fill up all the space and dance along like they hadn’t got a care in the world.
The encore sadly came too soon and after a short departure from the stage the band returned to play the last few numbers. Ending with the wonderful Tonight We Fly I sang along and watched all the happy faces around me joining in with gusto. It had been an amazing evening of music and entertainment which I thoroughly enjoyed. Next time I definitely won’t be leaving it as long between gigs. I promise.