Divine Comedy/Jose Gonzalez, Old Royal Naval College – review
By André Paine
27 Jul 2011

Neil Hannon’s songs hit the West End this Christmas in his Swallows and Amazons musical. This open-air show was a chance to see The Divine Comedy frontman going solo with his more grown-up material.

The series was opened by José González, bookended by giant inflatable daisies for reasons known only to the organisers. González sat plucking his acoustic guitar and delivering a mumbled vocal, even on Kylie Minogue’s Hand on Your Heart. He was often spellbinding, though somewhat samey.

That wasn’t a problem for Hannon. Playing current album Bang Goes the Knighthood in full may have been bloody-minded but it showed his range. Sitting at a piano, he pointed out the “marvellous view of the financial district” and dedicated The Complete Banker to its denizens. There was also the breezy At the Indie Disco, Island Life, an enjoyable offcut from his musical, and the album title track about perversion in high places.

Hannon’s self-depreciation was most entertaining and his rapport with the audience let him laugh off a number of lapses. He provided spectacular moments, including a haunting cover of the Pet Shop Boys’ Being Boring and the cricket anthem Jiggery Pokery. But as the crowd sang the National Express encore, a faltering Hannon told them “you’re better than me – that’s insulting!”
A haphazard sort of triumph.