Divine Comedy/Duke Special

You know, I get the feeling Neil Hannon doesn’t take his job entirely seriously any more.

Halfway through the set, as one song ends and as the rest of the band strike up ready to play their next song, he suddenly scampers off stage and disappears for two or three minutes, leaving the band looking slightly panicked and confused, wondering what’s going on. But – never fear! He quickly returns, looking triumphant and holding aloft the can of Guinness he’d just run to his dressing room to retrieve. After a couple of seconds to pour his drink and regain his breath, he regains his composure and his luxurious baritone returns to caress our ears once again: In many ways, he is the archetypal mad drunken Irish balladeer: not entirely connected to reality, a temperamental relationship with God and the church and a knack for very clever, very witty, self-deprecating yet confident lyrics.

Support tonight comes from Duke Special, who goes from strength to strength with his quirky vaudevillian style: quite a departure, as Naomi keeps reminding me (and anyone else who will listen, up to and including Duke Special himself), from his early days playing at the Edrington Presbyterian Church 100th Anniversary. We spend a few minutes after the gig talking to him – behind the dreadlocks and eyeliner and vaudeville is a family man with a wife and three kids: Naomi now says we should move to Belfast so she could teach at the school his kids are at.

But despite Neil Hannon’s shambolics, the Divine Comedy still know exactly what they’re doing: they play a mix of new stuff and guaranteed crowd-pleasing classics like National Express and Becoming More Like Alfie (a personal favourite), skirting very close to but resisting the temptation to step over the line into novelty – there’s no Lovely Horse here – although, disappointingly, this also means there’s no Song of Love, either.

All in all, a lot of fun. One final gig left this week, and it could be the silliest and most fun of them all: the almighty Lordi, supported by the only heavy metal band in the world to feature an accordian, Turisas. Naomi is a little scared, but I think it could well prove to be the most fun ever. We shall see…

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