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Blog: The Divine Comedy

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A few weeks ago I got the Word Magazine newsletter which mentioned they were planning a gig at The Lexington, featuring The Divine Comedy. The Divine Comedy are one of my FAVOURITE EVER bands - in fact they/HE is pretty much the only band whose Early Stuff i got into BEFORE he went on to get proper famous. I read a review of "Promenade" in Select (SELECT!) and thought "That sounds GRATE!" and LO! it completely was.

It was all a bit ARTY and CLEVER, so imagine my SURPRISE when very soon after that Chris Evans started playing his new stuff, and suddenly he was in THE CHARTS! It was a LOT of surprise! It all went a bit wonky for me around the time of The Nigel Godrich Record, when, like so many other bands at that time, all the interviews were about how We Are A Proper Band Now and much of the FUN and UNIQUENESS was jettisoned in favour of SERIOUSNES and The Occasional Wibbly Noise ("Regeneration" it was, I had to look it up) but then everything picked up again and the past three albums have been FANTASTIC, with the most recent one "Bang Goes The Knighthood" pretty much his BEST YET.

So yes, when I saw the gig advertised I thought "ZOINKS!" and LEAPT in to buy a couple of tickets. The chance to see someone SO GRATE at such a SMALL (NB comparitively - obviously when I've played there is has been BIG) was not to be missed, and I managed to get in JUST before they sold out. PHEW!

CUT to last night, when myself and The Keys On My Piano found ourselves at Kings Cross waiting for PAL and fellow fan Mr Mark Sutton. We nipped up to The Lexington for a quick CHAT/PINT before going round the corner to INDIAN VEG, the AMAZINGLY excellent/CHEAP Indian buffet restaurant that Mr Ray Dann and Dr Neil Brown RAVED about for years before I finally went and... well, started RAVING myself. We filled ourselves RIGHT up with delicious grub - TWICE - before nipping over the road for another quick pint before dropping The Spices In My Balti off at the TOOB and then heading back for the GIG.

We arrived just in time to see the second support act, Lulu & The Lampshades. They had LOTS of different instruments - i felt a bit sorry for the bass player, as everyone else was going "Now I shall move from Amazonian Ukelele Trumpet to Guavan Shoulder Harp!" while she just BASSED it up throughout - and a GRATE sound, but I must admit after a while I HANKERED for some SONGS. I always think bands like that should do COVER versions - they sounded brilliant but everything went on a bit without choruses for me, i could have done with something a bit more FAMILIAR to latch on to.

This came in the shape of Mark Ellen and then Mark Radcliffe, who came on and did THE RAFFLE. "Oh yes", I said to Mr Sutton, "This happens ALL THE TIME at London gigs - celebrities!"

The Divine Comedy are one of the few bands, alongside Belle & Sebastian really, where I actually KNOW nearly all of the songs, so we decided to be PROPER FANS about it and get right down the FRONT. This was PEASY as the entire crowd was pretty much the same age as US, or indeed slightly above. It was like a Social Experiment where someone had decided to take a Divine Comedy audience from 15 years ago and see what had happened to us all. I looked around and saw people who had clearly come straight from Proper Serious Jobs, others who had Gone Hairy, and couples who had got Dressed Up For The Occasion. Due to the strangeness of the early and Britpop years he's always attracted a slightly odd mix of bohemian and Britpop types, and now here we all were gathered together again, politely allowing each other to get to the front/the bar/the toilet as we needed to. It was lovely.

THUS we spent the entire gig in PRIME POSITION, just a couple of feet from the front and a) Mr Neil Hannon b) a GRAND PIANO. How on EARTH did they manage to get a GRAND PIANO up the stairs and into the upstairs room of the Lexington? It defies sense! How they got Mr Hannon in, less so - COR! He is PROPER TINY! You know the Doctor Who episode where The Master shrinks him into a little old man? Like THAT, but not so old - INDEED i was quite surprised when, halfway through, someone shouted "Happy Birthday for Sunday" he said "Thanks for reminding me I'm going to be 40!" I always thought he was a bit OLDER than me! SHOCKER!

Anyway, he came in wearing a suit and hat, carrying a briefcase (containing setlist), with a pipe and glass of wine, sat down and played for about 50 minutes. He was BLOODY BRILLIANT. There was a LOT of stuff from the new album - normally you'd feel a bit annoyed if someone of Long Standing with SO MANY SONGS did this, but the new album is FANTASTIC and everyone clearly loved it and sang along/applauded/did slightly too loud clapping along (i amazed MYSELF by being grumpy enough to think "I say, that clappings a bit loud!") to all of them. As previously stated, it's some of his best material EVER, and sounded FAB in the solo mode.

He seemed a bit NERVOUS to be in the small room on his own, and drew attention to a couple of times when he messed up, which really made it feel all the more DELIGHTFUL. He did "National Express" and "Frog Princess" and "Sweden" and various other older songs, finishing with my ABSOLUTE FAVOURITE "Tonight We Fly". OOH BLIMEY, you know when people say "I got all tingly down the back of my neck"? That happened down my WHOLE BACK, it was AMAAAAAZING!

The crowd politely BAYED for him to come back on and once that was achieved everyone bellowed for song titles - i was after "The Dogs And The Horses" after recent events, but there were a LOT of things shouted for. "I've got too many songs!" he said, and then did a CRACKING version of "Don't You Want Me" with full audience DOING THE SINGING.

It was BLOODY BRILLIANT - you READ about The Big Stars doing "intimate" small gigs, but they're rarely as ACTUALLY small as this one, and I felt EXTREMELY lucky to have managed to get in and see it. It was a FANTASTIC night, and I shall be visiting Mr Amazon soon for a "I Used To Have That On Tape And Now Need It Again" SESSION!

posted 5/11/2010 by MJ Hibbett

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