As fans waiting for The Divine Comedy to appear on stage at Ulster Hall, the warm-up playlist played Nobody Does It Better by Carly Simon. Halfway through the song, the band appeared on stage led by the impish Neil Hannon, dressed in smart suits, though not as smart as James Bond. Neil Hannon, Licence To Thrill.
Yes. Yes. I know it’s the theme tune to The Spy Who Loved Me, i’m just using a bit of creative licence.
It was the band’s second Belfast concert this year, having played Custom House Square as part of Cathedral Quarter Arts Festival. It was a fact that escaped Hannon as he spoke inbetween songs, saying that it had been a long time since their last Belfast concert, before correcting himself that it had only been a few months.
Earlier, he had said he would be doing less chat, as people wouldn’t hear him anyway, declaring that the band will just continue to play “cool songs” as he introduced Generation Sex.
For this, and for a lot of people in and around the front row were dancing in sync, i’m not sure if it was by accident or if it just happened. They were dancing awfully though, but this isn’t Strictly Live, and nobody’s dancing was to be judged.
We were treated to favourites such as Becoming More Like Alfie and How Can You Leave Me On My Own? as well as a cover of Where Do You Go To My Lovely? by Peter Sarstedt, who died earlier this year, which was reference by Hannon when he described him as “A lovely man”.
They were even allowed to use The Ulster Hall’s own in-house organ for some of their set.
There was even a surreal moment when Neil Hannon had tried to interact with several people shouting at him.
One woman was shouting “Introduce the band” at him, while there was an embarrassing borebag who was shouting “Play My Lovely Horse” inbetween songs.
You’re probably imagining what he looks like, and yep, a definite Harp drinking Rugby sort. Even worse, over 50 and old enough to know better. It was probably the only night he’s allowed out over Christmas, a walking “Yer Da” joke.
Around me, you could hear people muttering “Shut the fuck up”, Neil Hannon even told him that, and another member of the band commented “You’ve been at every concert on this tour”. Metaphorically rather than literally i’d imagine.
Hannon would then let the crowd know that he was in control of the playlist, introducing the next song and telling the crowd that they would like it. They would, it was Something For The Weekend, quite apt as it was a Thursday night and so close to the weekend.
There may have been no My Lovely Horse, but we did get Songs Of Love, best known as the theme tune to Father Ted, with the crowd singing along to the riff that everyone knows and loves, with Neil Hannon proclaiming “Eat your heart out, Ronnie Hazelhurst” with Ronnie Hazelhurst being a composer of TV theme tunes, the theme to Only Fools And Horses being on his credits
Hannon left the stage, and returned, dressed as Napoleon Bonaparte, a costume that Hannon says he will be returning in three days time, very sweaty, with the “Sweat of a thousand gigs”
Those who enjoyed it had the opportunity to relive it, of sorts, as there was a live album called Loose Canon being sold at the merchandise stand, recorded during their Foreverland Tour of 2016-2017.
I’ve purchased a copy but haven’t had a chance to listen to it yet. That will be the soundtrack to my next drive.
Leaving the venue to the early stages of a snow storm, curiously, it was the third time I had left an Ulster Hall concert to be met by snow outside, having done so after Ellie Goulding in 2010 and Paloma Faith in 2013.
Inbetween songs, Hannon was assisted by a very well dressed Roadie/PA known only as Alistair. Hannon said there could be a move about his life, as “Forrest Gump would have nothing on him”, to which the crowd showed their support for Alistair.
It was hard to know which if the two was the star of the show. Hannon could make a good case that it was him, having got a standing ovation as he left the stage following an encore that included National Express.
The Divine Comedy live at HMV Belfast September 2016
The Divine Comedy live at Custom House Square May 2017