A Divine night of song

Neil Hannon always like to surprise when it comes to live performances. From a standard guitars and drums line-up to a string quartet to a full orchestra, you never quite know what to expect. His Galway Arts Festival performance later this month will be something special however — he will perform songs from his new album, Bang Goes The Knighthood, in an intimate solo show.

This is the first time The Divine Comedy has performed solo, and shows to date have been well received.

“I did a short tour about a month ago, just Dublin, Belfast, Edinburgh, London, and Paris,” Hannon said. “They all went very well. I’m doing all my shows on this album one man and a piano. It seemed like the best way to play it.”

This is the first of Hannon’s solo albums released on his own label — the critically acclaimed The Duckworth and Lewis Method also comes from the Divine Comedy Records stable — and its pared down arrangements make it an ideal candidate for a solo performance.

“It’s a lot of work either way but I do love playing live,” Hannon added. “I don’t think I’d survive if I thought I was never going to take to the stage again.”

Ever the masterful lyricist, Hannon’s latest offering comes with a generous helping of his trademark whimsical commentary on some of the most unexpected subjects, from the youthful exuberance and awkwardness of ‘At The Indie Disco’ to the excruciating dilemma of the S&M loving aristocrat torn between gratification and disgrace in ‘Bang Goes The Knighthood’, alongside the likes of the heartbreakingly honest ‘When A Man Cries’ and the infectiously upbeat ‘I Like’.

The stand-out track, though, is the scathingly satirical ‘The Complete Banker’, a hilarious indictment of the culture of greed which prevailed in financial institutions for so long — “God I loved it, making a profit from somebody’s loss; I never knew exactly whose money it was; And I did not care as long as there was lots for me.” Hannon sums up the inspiration for the song simply enough — “I got mad and it’s my way of getting even.”

Hannon’s bittersweet homage to the indie discos of the late eighties and early nineties serves as a nostalgic reminder to those of us who frequented them, though surprisingly, Hannon did not.

“It’s a homage to my late teenage years and the things I was listening to, but there’s no point in writing a song about how I was an indie kid,” he said of ‘At The Indie Disco’. “It’s a weird one because I didn’t frequent these places because there weren’t any in Fermanagh as far as I knew, so it’s kind of a received wisdom from friends and various media sources.”

Last year saw Hannon team up with Thomas Walsh of Pugwash to create the cricket-inspired The Duckworth Lewis Method, an album which saw Hannon shortlisted for an Ivor Novello songwriting award. The pair have since enjoyed a variety of performance collaborations, from showcasing the album to hosting a series of radio programmes as part of 2FM’s Celebrity Sunday, which was renamed The Duckworth Radiophonic Blunderbuss for the occasion.

“We had a great time doing that and hope to do it again some time,” Hannon said of his flirtation with broadcasting. “It was good fun and we enjoyed the emailing backwards and forwards with the punters. You’d always get one text per week saying, ‘what the feck are you doing on the radio you idiot’, and we especially enjoyed those.”

So what, if anything, does the future hold for The Duckworth Lewis Method, and can we expect any more albums from the collaboration?

“It’s a very off and on affair because we’ve both got our day jobs,” he said. “There are no plans right now but I suppose it’s bound to happen eventually.”

The Divine Comedy will play at the Radisson Live Lounge on Thursday July 15.

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