Launching their tour at Dublin’s old Gas Board offices allowed an apt backdrop for the six-piece The Divine Comedy’s presentation of their latest symphony of songs ‘Office Politics’. The scene was set, much like the album cover, in an office with all the office equipment & technology you could imagine, and it made for a charming atmosphere in which Neil Hannon was able to enact his take on life at the office. By his own admission, not having ever worked in an office, Hannon wasn’t qualified to do this, and perhaps that was reflected by the odd ‘admin error’ that Alastair the Caretaker had to tend. On the whole, the audience was thoroughly entertained throughout by the exquisite band and Hannon’s remarkable observations & distinguished delivery. His unrivalled talent as a wordsmith knows no bounds. The subject matter of his writing is down to earth, real, and touches everybody. Then there is the music; melodious and lyrical, beautiful and brilliant.
Hannon took us on quite a journey during which there were many highlights. The initial drama of ‘Infernal Machines’ made way to the fabulous harmonies of ‘Generation Sex’ before the frantic typing and other “business and pleasure” of ‘Office Politics’ took place, and all before 11 am.
The office clock hanging at the back, keeping time with the help of trusty Alastair.
More stunning harmonies featured in the delightful ‘Norman & Norma’ as well as Hannon challenging the audience to join in with a clapping regime – not the easiest one to clap too but it was achieved. Soon after 2 pm, Hannon was on the desk proclaiming “I jump the queue ’cause I’m better than you” in the rousing ‘Queuejumper’. As the day wore on, we were indulged with the beauty of ‘I’m a Stranger Here’ the simple but purposeful-sounding guitar and sensational harmonies with the evocative power of an Argentine Tango. Spine tingling.
Come 8 pm, and it was party time. There were balloons, party hats and quirky dancing with the blast from the past that is ‘Europop’, followed by striking layered harmonies and electric guitar in ‘At The Indie Disco’. By 11 pm we were feeling sorry for the jilted one-night stand in the wonderfully sentimental ‘A Feather in Your Cap’. Sympathies didn’t last long though before Hannon declared, “You won’t like this one” and burst into the tongue twisting synthetic electronica that is ‘The Synthesiser Service Centre Super Summer Sale’. He wasn’t wrong. Quite how he remembers the words to that one will forever be a mystery, or maybe he had them on his computer screen, who could blame him if he did.
To the delight of the audience, a run of some of the most beautiful songs followed with ‘A Lady of a Certain Age’, ‘To The Rescue’ & the massive sound of ‘Something for the Weekend’. The journey continued with the obligatory trip on ‘The National Express’ before the mellow sound of ‘When The Working Day is Done’ began to draw things to a close. The audience loved it, but Hannon admitted it wasn’t perfect.
After rapturous applause, the band made a return to the stage with Billy Bird, the “International Business Traveller” making a welcome albeit short & sorry return too in ‘Opportunity Knox’, during which Hannon took to writing or drawing on the whiteboard – although sadly it wasn’t possible to see what.
The stage was then dismantled, and the office furniture and instruments draped in sheets all to the sound of ‘Philip and Steve’s Furniture Removal Company’. An unlikely song in any other setting but effectively bringing this sensational production to an end. Or so we thought – just when we thought it was all over, the band all gathered around a mic at the front of the stage and proceeded to thrill us further with what can only be described as choral renditions of ‘Songs of Love’ and ‘Tonight We Fly’ to send us on our way.
There were some mixed reactions overheard from the odd one or two of the departing crowd although the genius and virtuosity of Neil Hannon was never in doubt.
The support act, the four-piece Man & The Echo from Warrington, benefitted from a decent crowd. And, with their narrative style & quirky demeanour clearly influenced by the Divine Comedy, they must have been in their element to be on the tour. They seemed to be well received although might have been able to make an even greater impact on a different night, without the direct comparison.