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Saturday, November 10, 2012

A night with Neil Hannon, the charming man

The Divine Comedy. An Evening With Neil Hannon. Auditori de Girona, November 2nd
The charming man
Photo: Bloodbuzzed

Finally back online (Internet problems are crucifying us), and the first thing pending was, without a doubt, the chronicle of Mr. Neil Hannon, aka The Divine Comedy, in Girona. A very special, long expected, and gratifying evening alongside the music of the charming (and a bit worryingly thin) Irishman, as the universal song by The Smiths was unintentionally announcing.

We had our worries, sure. Would the audience listen him? We weren't sure if a gig in Girona (the city was having its autumn celebrations week), part of the Temporada Alta Festival, would be that successful, or if people would know his music. Some scary "ladies of certain age", with tones of make-up  on her faces, and kids among the public weren't the nicest signs. Then, as the quite beautiful auditorium was getting full, some of the public gathered behind the stage, which was a bit weird. Even with Neil appeared, he seemed shocked because of that strange location of a few concertgoers. But he quickly managed it, transforming it into an element to joke and make funny remarks about.

Mr. Hannon on piano. Photo: Bloodbuzzed
The gig started with him on piano playing tunes from his latest album "Bang Goes the Knighthood", like "Assume the Perpendicular", that opened the concert, "The Complete Banker" with its wise and so true lyrics or record title "Bang Goes the Knighthood". In between of them, the first classic, "Generation Sex". By then, we were certain than we didn't have to fear. The public was enthusiastic, and, at least on the front rows, knew his songs. 

And on guitar. Photo: Bloodbuzzed
As it happened two years ago, when I was lucky to saw Neil in this acoustic, intimate show format in Barcelona, songs on the piano were alternated with short breaks in which our beloved singer/composer/one-man band switches the instrument for a guitar. "Perfect Love Song", with a surreal guitar-tuning moment and the haunting "Lucy" (great rescue) were excellent choices to change the mood before "attacking some darker melodies again on piano.

"Geronimo", "Snowball in Negative", or the baroque "When the Lights Go Out All Over Europe", which I found more appealing in its live & "naked" version than recorded arrived at the central and more "dense" section of the gig. But fortunately, Neil has an outstanding presence live. A mixture between a mischievous kid (these looks) a goofy, theatrical comedian (fake cigarettes?) and some sort of a distant, subtle impersonation of Oscar Wilde singing songs about love, loss and human miseries.

Indie Piano Man. Photo: Bloodbuzzed

But in my opinion, you can only make fun, being a musician, if you have talent and songs to show it. Otherwise, you are a fraud. And Neil's weighs zillions of tones. How many could transform "Time to Pretend", the MGMT's ubiquitous tune into a perfectly suitable song from The Divine Comedy with such grace? Who can merge it with "National Express" and made them fit as if they were created on the same studio session? Or engage people with such a difficult tune, extremely wordy like "The Lost Art of Conversation"?

"Songs of Love". Photo: Bloodbuzzed
And most importantly, who can match such an immaculate indiepop banquet for the listener in the final stage of the concert and still exclude many amazing tunes (missed "Absent Friends")?  Let's name it. Just him and his guitar he played "Songs of Love" (funniest comments of the night for me regarding how "disgusting" the lyrics of the songs are, still smiling one week after when I remember) followed by "A Lady of Certain Age". And back on piano, "Our Mutual Friend" and the epic finale of "Tonight We Fly". Mind-blowing. With the public giving the Irishman a standing ovation, it was a matter of seconds he returned to the stage for an encore, playing "The Frog Princess" and "I Like", which, and on a personal note, was the perfect song to end the gig. Thanks for another evening to remember Neil.

Side note: Cheers for your 42nd birthday, dear Neil!!

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