The Divine Comedy (& The Frames)
Dublin Castle, May 5th 2001
I arrived in Dublin Castle tonight whilst The Frames were in the midst of a rocket-fuelled version of 'God Bless Mom'. I gave myself a swift slap on the wrist for missing the first few songs of the band's set and scurried up near the stage to try and soak up the atmosphere. This proved to be a problem. Dublin Castle is not a good venue you see. The grey cobblestones of the courtyard are stark, the sound is poor and the stage resembles a large cardboard box. Add to that the fact that it is still bright out, so the light show is pretty pointless. It proved a tough task for the Frames to create an atmosphere in this setting but fair play to them, they just about managed to pull it off.
The first half of the set contains for the most part songs from 'Dance the Devil', including the very fine 'Stars are Underground'. Things don't really start to happen though until 'Revelate', the old crowd pleaser, is pulled out of the bag. It gets the crowd very much on the band's side, and god knows they need that with almost everything else in the venue going against them. A momentous version of 'Star Star' follows - David Kitt joins the band on stage to sing with Glen and the result is powerful. The encore follows with a couple of new songs, including 'Disappointed' and 'Headlong'. A strong gig against all the odds.
Divine Comedy have never been a live band. Their music sounds fine on CD, hell I would even go as far as to say that some of their songs have a spark of brilliance about them. Take 'The Dogs and the Horses' for example, a clever and poignant song if ever I heard one. But live the band just don't cut it. It could be Neil Hannon's irritating poshness, it could be his lack of stage presence or it could be that the band are trying just a little too hard to be divine. Whatever it is, tonight's gig proves a bore. Perhaps if they had supplied the audience with armchairs we could have enjoyed the gig. Indeed Hannon looks like he would rather to be at home in his armchair than on-stage. The music is bland and spiritless, as limp as Hannon's new hairdo. There is no passion, no spark. Predictably enough all the hits appear, along with a handful of songs from the bandsnew 'Regeneration' album. But the gig goes nowhere, it is all a little too by the book. The people around me look bored, the band look bored, the people with the Heineken bottles on the balcony look bored and quite frankly, I too am bored. Very bored.
After an hour or so it becomes apparent that this gig is not going to get any better and the only thing to do is call it a day.
I shall never darken the cobblestones of a Divine Comedy concert again.