The Divine Comedy: Hard Rock Cafe, Manchester.
Q Magazine and the Hard Rock Cafe aren’t things I normally (or ever) want to engage with. However, when tickets to see an intimate performance from The Divine Comedy were “won” I wasn’t going to let such trivialities stand in my way.
To a tightly packed and diverse audience, Mr. Hannon emerged with briefcase, dressed in bowler and tie, and launched into, appropriately, ‘The Complete Banker’. For some reason I had assumed the set was going to be all new material from Bang Goes the Knighthood, but I can’t say I was too disappointed when after two tracks the sweet opening of ‘Everybody Knows’ filled the room. From there on in the new – ‘I Like’ and ‘Neapolitan Girl’ – compared favourably and (mostly) stood their ground with the old – ‘Your Daddy’s Car’, ‘Becoming More Like Alfie’, ‘National Express’ (natch), ‘Songs of Love’ and traditional ender ‘Tonight We Fly’. Unfortunately, the dramatics of ‘Our Mutual Friend’ were somewhat ruined by the VIP chatter on the balcony – something that produced a well received holler of “shut up” from my gig partner and a knowing and weary dedication from the man himself. And it was all over a bit too quickly (clocking in at around an hour), but can be enjoyed again on the 5th September on Q Radio (apparently).
All this aside, it was the cover of MGMT’s ‘Time to Pretend’ that provided for the evening’s stand-out moment: somehow Hannon managed to translate the pop-hook synth-line into something simultaneously more subtle and elaborate, whilst succeeding, through a massive dose of melancholia, in elevating the (often forgotten) sense of nihilism and fatalism that fills the lyrics (“We’ll choke on our vomit and that will be the end. We were fated to pretend”). Brilliant.
But we know that TDC have always produced some fantastic cover versions don’t we? Well, if not, have a go at these: