Tuesday, October 10, 2006

 

Divine Heaven?



Through the 6 years that I was active in the gig promotion business there was much that gave me pleasure as well as some rather more painful moments. I personally was more than satisfied when I saw and talked to the happy members of the public as they left the hall and when I chatted with the band members as they were on their come down after their on stage adrenalin high. Though maybe the biggest pleasure I received was discovering new artists that were in the process of defining themselves. Way back in 1993 I was proposed a bill with three bands, Moose, Sidi Boo Said and Divine Comedy an interesting line up, a band that was the critics choice but not that good at selling records, a band seemed to be in NME every week at the time and a band (?) that was then unknown but was to go on to become the largest out of the three. The date was set for the tail end of November and we had a good crowd in for the gig and it was Neil Hannon who at this stage was performing alone under the name of the Divine Comedy that stole the show as indeed he was on every date on the tour. He was a revelation and a welcome breath of fresh air. Appearing alone on the stage with his acoustic guitar, his chair, His bottle of wine, his suit, his humour, his amazing voice and those songs of his that were so different to what we were used to. I know that I was not the the only person to be so impressed with this charming diminutive Irish minstrel and his wares.
We were not to wait long for a return visit from Neil, only this time he came in the company of two friends, a violinist and a cellist in May 1994. On this occasion I had the fortune to promote three gigs Montpellier May 15, Nice May 16 and Marseille May 17, my involvement also meant that I had the luck to spend two days traveling the South of France in their tour bus, well an old Dodge van actually, so even if their line up was none to rock and roll their traveling arrangements certainly were, I can remember the van smelling none to well. One would have thought that such sedate music would attract a like minded audience, but this was not to be the case. At Le Rockstore we had a drunken fool jump up on stage and dance around behind the seated Neil who was not amused. This meant that for the following gigs on the tour front of house security was required to stop stage divers! The bonus on this tour was the presence of the sadly missed Epic Soundtracks as opening act, someone else that I'm very pleased to have had the chance to see.
My last experience promoting the Divine Comedy was for the tour that promoted 1996's 'Casanova' by this stage not only was Neil a star in France but also in the UK. The consequence of this was a big tour bus, professional roadies, a full band, 4 star hotels and maybe the most difficult to believe loads of young women fans who were on the verge of hysteria upon sighting their idol. Personally I could not wish success to a nicer man who I had always witnessed putting on a good show and was forever the gentleman and considerate of his audience and fans.
Neil has since moved on and left Setanta Records signing to Paraphone in 1999 with whom he released his 9th album 'Victory For The Comic Muse' earlier this year. Despite the evident line up changes Neil is still using the Divine Comedy tag and is currently touring Europe, unfortunately no date for Montpellier, do go and see him if you can, you won't be disappointed!
What for me is almost a scandal of criminal proportions is that Neil's Setanta years output is no longer available, except in download format on the bands site or by searching second hand sites or shops. It for this reason I feel justified in offering one song from each of his first five albums, put your headphones on lie back and enjoy!


1. 'Your Daddy's Car' from Liberation
2. 'Tonight We Fly' from Promenade
3. 'Becoming More Like Alfie' from Casanova
4. 'If' from A Short Song About Love
5. 'National Express' from Fin De Siecle

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