The Divine Comedy & special guests
SJM Concerts Present The Divine Comedy Plus Special Guests Ages 8+. Under 14s must be accompanied by an adult at all times After six long years, one of the most unique and
SJM Concerts Present
The Divine Comedy
Plus Special Guests
Ages 8+. Under 14s must be accompanied by an adult at all times
After six long years, one of the most unique and acclaimed songwriters in pop is back doing what he does best. “The Divine Comedy is me at my purest,” says Neil Hannon. “It’s like potcheen, completely unadulterated 100 per cent proof Hannon brain. Whether that’s a good thing or not may depend on your taste.”
Foreverland is The Divine Comedy’s eleventh album and features twelve flamboyantly melodic, lyrically audacious, sumptuously arranged, fantastically overblown and quietly moving songs of everyday relationships.
“Perhaps this is my imperial phase,”says Hannon of an album that sets ordinary life to an extraordinary musical accompaniment. It’s crammed with vivid orchestrations, lusty horns, luxurious strings, vast choral harmonies, a rocking rhythm section and the unexpected intrusion of a braying donkey. “I like glorifying mundanity,”explains Hannon.
“Day-to-day domestic life might seem dull subject matter and it could be considered silly to glorify it with all these larger than life characters and musical exuberance, but actually, in your own mind, that is how important it all is”, Hannon continues.
From first single Catherine The Great (“the kind of love song you write if you have been watching too much BBC4”) to Broadway-style duet, Funny Peculiar (featuring Hannon’s better half, Irish singer-songwriter Cathy Davey); from wittily self-pitying romp How Can You Leave Me On My Own, to the tender, wistful ballad Other People (“I may have been in danger of getting a little heartfelt there”), Hannon somewhat abashedly admits that “on the whole, the album is just a great big love song.”
Foreverland represents Hannon at his most emotionally autobiographical, whilst simultaneously cloaking his life in oblique allusion. The composer of Father Ted’s celebrated Eurosong anthem My Lovely Horse frankly admits that straight ahead sincerity has never been his strong suit. “Music that is too heart on the sleeve can be a little bit cloying I find. I’ve done my fair share of love songs but it’s hard to do it in a way that doesn’t make you want to throw up. So the challenge is to write about love in ways that make the experience new and interesting, and actually in that way approximates the substance of the feeling.”
Born in Derry, Northern Ireland in 1970, Hannon is the son of a Bishop of the Church of Ireland. “Possibly not a typical pop star background,” he acknowledges. He is the founder and only consistent member of The Divine Comedy, who achieved unlikely pop stardom during the Britpop boom of the nineties with a slightly preposterous mix of archaic musical styles, hook laden melodies and audaciously witty lyrics.
The Divine Comedy released ten albums between Fanfare for the Comic Muse in 1990 and Bang Goes The Knighthood in 2010. The past six years, though, have seen him explore other avenues. “My extra-pop activities are pressure valves allowing me to let off musical steam,” says Hannon. He penned the tunes for an acclaimed musical version of Swallows And Amazons, which premiered at the Bristol Old Vic in 2010.
A year later he set the words of German playwright Frank Alva Buecheler to music in the short but powerful chamber opera, In May. Then in 2014 the Royal Festival Hall commissioned him to write a piece for their newly refurbished organ. The resulting work, To Our Fathers In Distress, he dedicated to his dad, Brian, who suffers from Alzheimer’s. “They gave me a choir so I basically turned it into a long hymn. Being brought up in a clergy family, I was raised on the Anglican hymnal, most of which I found out later was arranged by the brilliant Ralph Vaughn Williams. Like Vaughn Williams, I don’t do the religion but I certainly do the music.”
“I love them all, and a lot more besides that don’t get name checked, and they all find their way in there. I am not sure I believe in originality. I have more of a cheesy, genre-hopping magpie sensibility, picking shiny things from all over and hoarding them together in a big jumble, hopefully combining them through my own particular aesthetic to create an original beast.”
Or, as he says of the album’s delightful closing track, The One Who Loves You, “Bit of banjo, bit of orchestra, nice shuffly rhythm, two key changes, bish bash bosh, job done. It’s about recognising what you’ve got and being grateful for it.”
Which could be the theme of the whole album. “Sometimes I struggle to say exactly what I mean. That’s probably the repressed Ulsterman in me. The music is definitely trying to say something completely sincere but finds it hard to come out with it. But isn’t most of the best music like that? For me, it is all about the travelling rather than the arriving. I’ll get there one day, then what will I do?”
(Tuesday) 7:00 pm - 11:00 pm
O2 Ritz Manchester
Whitworth Street West