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Review: The Divine Comedy at the Cambridge Corn Exchange

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Neil Hannon and his band came to Cambridge on Thursday, May 5, to perform a greatest hits set.

The Divine Comedy. Picture: Kevin Westenberg
The Divine Comedy. Picture: Kevin Westenberg

“Good evening Cambridge! Let’s rock,” said the Northern Ireland-born star, taking the stage after his five band members, looking cool in a grey suit and sunglasses.

Getting the proceedings under way was Absent Friends, a great tune which had members of the audience raising their glasses to “absent friends” as dictated in the song.

Neil has a real warmth and likeability to him and he addressed the crowd between songs in a calm and relaxed manner. “We’re like a Divine Comedy tribute band,” he joked, “we’re just going to play the hits.” And play the hits they did, much to the joy of the audience. Becoming More Like Alfie has a nostalgic charm to it, while Neil’s skills as a lyricist were again on display during the wonderful Everybody Knows (Except You), which had me swaying in my seat and singing along.

“Would you like more songs? Or I could just of riff,” said Neil, quickly realising it was the songs that we’d come to hear! New song The Best Mistakes is a beautiful track, slotting in perfectly alongside the older material, and The Certainty of Chance was another winner.

In a recent interview, Neil told me that my favourite Divine Comedy number, To the Rescue, is a difficult song to perform live - but Neil and the others, with their natural swagger and air of sophistication, made it look easy. What a tune!

The Divine Comedy at the Cambridge Corn Exchange, May 5, 2021. Picture: Adrian Peel (56503385)
The Divine Comedy at the Cambridge Corn Exchange, May 5, 2021. Picture: Adrian Peel (56503385)

Generation Sex was very well received, although it’s not one of my personal favourites, and the catchy Gin Soaked Boy served as an excellent way to close the first half. There then followed an intermission and afterwards the band came back out on stage and went through further classics, including Songs of Love (the Father Ted theme tune), Norman and Norma, Something for the Weekend and National Express.

One forgets just how many great songs The Divine Comedy have in their repertoire and it was an absolute delight to be reminded.

For more on The Divine Comedy, go to thedivinecomedy.com.

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