Gig review: THE DIVINE COMEDY – O2 Academy, Oxford, 13 October 2019

Seeing the Divine Comedy live has been top of my bands to see list and I was very happy to be able to finally see them at a sold out show at the Academy (or the Zodiac as it was known for many years and referred to as such by Neil Hannon early on in the show). Interesting audience mix covering all ages with 90’s Britpop fans mixing with hipsters, students and a few aging rockers like me!

The stage set resembled an office to tie-in with the recent double album ‘Office Politics’, with the majority of that album performed live during the course of the show. The band took to the stage via the ‘In’ door of the office (and naturally leave via the ‘Out’ door at the end of the set), with Neil Hannon resplendent in a bright red suit, he certainly wouldn’t be missed in an office wearing that.

Kicking off with ‘Eurpop’ (dating back from 1993 – where did the time go?!), up next was ‘Queuejumper’ (the first single of ‘Office Politics’) which was received warmly, complete with red lights on the stage at the appropriate place – no expense spared on this set you know.

Next after launching into another older song ‘Generation Sex’, this started to see the audience get more involved as it had been a polite crowd reaction until then. However, when ‘Norman And Norma’ was announced as the next song the crowd cheered wildly and it was from then on the show really came to life. How this was never a hit single is a mystery, although how any decent song gets heard above the mass of music and streaming/playlists out there it is not perhaps that surprising. Certain to become a setlist staple from now on.

So good to hear songs like ‘Come Home Billy Bird’ performed live (and this one fitted in well with the overall office based theme). Bit of irony in ‘Infernal Machines’ as said machines are needed to que up the backing tracks on most of the songs! This was followed by the joint A-side of the band’s latest single ‘You’ll Never Work in This Town Again’.

Neil Hannon seems to draw the audience along with him with the odd quip here and there, plus he has that stage presence whereby he doesn’t really need to do much to get attention, although his various dance moved throughout the evening gained rapturous applause. Maybe a stint on ‘Strictly Come Dancing’ beckons?!

The office party section of the set kicked off with ‘Something for the Weekend’, swiftly followed by ‘I Like’ and then the song most associated with them ‘National Express’. They may not have hostesses on the coaches anymore but you can’t deny it is a classic pop song and one guaranteed to get a crowd smiling and enjoying themselves.

‘The Life and Soul of the Party’ fitted in well after these classics and the pace dropped for another new song ‘A Feather in Your Cap’, which Neil Hannon commented he always wanted to be on Top Of The Pops even back in 1981.

‘The Synthesiser Service Centre Super Summer Sale’ is a great album track just not sure it works as well live. But then came ‘Lady Of A Certain Age’, one of those songs that Neil Hannon seems to excel in and it has such a timeless feel and appeal.

Billy Bird makes a cameo in ‘Opportunity Knox’ off the new album, whilst another ‘When The Working Day Is Done’ closed the set and has the perfect title with which to close a set based on a day in the office.

For the encore all the band crowd around the mic for renditions of ‘Your Daddy’s Car’, ‘Songs of Love’ and ‘Tonight We Fly’. A wonderful end to a fabulous evening’s entertainment.

2019 has been a vintage year for the Divine Comedy with a strong new album and this tour. Hopefully next year we can see a return of the Duckworth Lewis Method…well I can always hope and in the meantime relive the best moments of tonight’s show in the coming days, weeks, months and beyond.

Review by Jason Ritchie

Setlist:

Europop/Queuejumper/Generation Sex/Commuter Love/Office Politics/Norman and Norma/Come Home Billy Bird/Infernal Machines/You’ll Never Work in This Town Again/I’m a Stranger Here/To the Rescue/Something For The Weekend/I Like/National Express/The Life and Soul of the Party/A Feather in Your Cap/The Synthesiser Service Centre Super Summer Sale/A Lady of a Certain Age/Opportunity Knox/When the Working Day Is Done Encore: Your Daddy’s Car/Songs of Love/Tonight We Fly


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Pete Feenstra celebrated his 300th show in October 2019. Pete heads up a five-hour blues rock marathon when “Tuesday is Bluesday” from 19:00 GMT. Listen out also for his interview-based Feature show on Sundays (20:00 GMT)

Power Plays w/c 11 November (Mon-Fri)

MILES NIELSEN AND THE RUSTED HEARTS Hands Up (indie)
THE FARGO RAILROAD COMPANY Something In The Water (indie)
THE DARK ELEMENT If I Had A Heart (Frontiers)
LIBERTY LIES A Thousand People (indie)
DIRTY SHIRLEY Here Comes The King (Frontiers)
CARRY THE CROWN Runaway (indie)

Featured Albums w/c 11 November (Mon-Fri)

09:00-12:00 WORK OF ART Exhibits (Frontiers)
12:00-13:00 SIGN X Like A Fire (Pride & Joy Music)
14:00-16:00 JACK BROADBENT Moonshine Blue (Creature Records)

Albums That Time Forgot (Mon-Fri)

MAGNUM Sleepwalking (1992)



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