So very unusual for me to be going to a gig on a Saturday evening. And I wasn’t the only one, who was enjoying the possibility of being out on the town again. Thee was a buzz in the air.
Nalen is one of Stockholm’s oldest and most stylish venues for live music. Back in the 30s and 40s it was famed for ballroom dancing and later for jazz concerts by the like of Charlie Parker and John Coltrane. With its high ceiling, velvet curtains and art deco embellishments; it was a perfect choice of venue for the wistful, bitter-sweet, nostalgic sounds of the Divine Comedy.
There was quite a queue to get in. As we waited, my Austrian pal, Wolfgang, and I got chatting to a lass from Chile. That surprised me. There is something so very British about Neil Hannon’s songs, I hadn’t expected an international fanbase. She’d heard a song on Spotify by chance, really liked it and then explored further. I can understand that. The songs are moreish.
This was the last night of a quite extensive European tour. TDC I read are rather popular in France and several other places that you would not expect.
We mentioned to our Santiago senörita that we go to the Roskilde Festival every year. She reminisced abut attending the festival in her youth. On the Monday morning after it was all over, her idea of fun was to go round setting fire to abandoned tents. I wonder how many other Latin American arsonists there are in the Hannon fanbase!
The Stockholm audience covered a broad age range and was definitely not blokeish: a lot of women. Two girls in their twenties were standing in front of me and were noticeably chuffed when their favourite songs got played. It soon became clear that most people in the room were rather familiar with the TDC songbook.
I was nervous. I’ve seen Neil Hannon once before in Stockholm with @DuCo01. Solo, he had treated us to a wonderful show, in which he’d had fantastic contact with the audience. Witty, self-deprecatory: a true showman. Would he be able to pull this off with a five-piece band? I was happy to see that one of the keyboard players played the accordion. Promising! That was later to be the icing in the cake in the superb version of Lady of a Certain Age
Well, he certainly did pull it off. And from the first song, Absent Friends, it was clear that the vocals were to be wonderfully high in the mix.
Bidding us welcome, Neil explained that the set would be nothing but the (he mimed inverted commas) “hits.” “None of the difficult stuff!” During the 90 minute set that followed, I realised what a cornucopia of very distinctive, memorable, quirky, catchy songs he has written! And what a consummate storytellerhe is
The band treated us to a cavalcade of fine songs and got a very warm, enthusiastic response from the audience.
We all clapped superbly as Neil sung of the nuptials of Norman and Norma, who got married in Cromer, got drunk in Majorca and reignited their passion in Clacton.
We sung along to National Express and an impromptu version of Mamma Mia done as a special treat for the Swedish audience. It was greeted by a roar of applause.
As was Something for the weekend which rocked along very nicely.
The setlist did not disappoint.
Indie disco. Mutual Friend. Generation Sex. Your Daddy’s Car…….
He mentioned that his first Stockholm gig had been at Cirkus in1994, supporting Tori Amos. Wolfgang was surprised. “I was at that gig! I don’t remember that” Out with his phone to check. I could not believe it. He has a record of all the concerts he has ever been to constantly at his finger tips!! Nothing compulsive there, eh? I can’t remember the names of artists I saw a few weeks ago.
A magnificent version of Tonight we fly was the final song
Tonight we fly
Over the houses
The streets and the trees
So what are your favourite Neil Hannon songs? After 30 years, there is quite a back catalogue to choose from. Let’s not forget the two Duckworth Lewis Method albums with Thomas Walsh from Pugwash.
And the theme music for the IT Crowd and Father Ted. And last but not least My Lovely Horse, co-written with Graham Linehan and Arthur Mathews.
Let’s all sing along now!
I want to shower you with sugarlumps. And ride you over fences. Polish your hooves every single day. And bring you to the horse dentist.
My lovely lovely lovely horse.
The Divine Comedy are staring their UK tour on 25th April. I can warmly recommend an evening out in their company.
And if you shout politely, Neil may even treat you to a song by ABBA!