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The Divine Comedy : Paris Hippodrome De Longchamp

Neil Hannon's band of revivified baroque'n'rollers are scuppered by shit PA sound, but pull through gracefully...

"I'm sorry we're late. The PA blew up, then the PA blew up again. Then the PA blew up." It's a good job Neil Hannon, onetime foppish lothario now introspective bookish rocker behind The Divine Comedy, loves what he does. After braving pouring rain to play the Solidays festival in benefit of AIDS charities, Hannon's now coping with rubbish sound.



For a minute, it appears as though the band might have to play unplugged and Neil sing loud, very loud. He might as well have. Opening with 'Love What You Do', all we hear are the guitars, the vocals barely audible. The technicians are running around as the band is performing, trying to give the sound some balance. It's almost as if they're doing the soundcheck instead of a concert.



"I hope it sounds ok. It probably sounds shit." Neil exclaims. "But who cares. This is about having a good time." This less precious attitude exuded by the band reflects the rawer textures of their latest opus, evident as they kick into 'Bad Ambassador', and the sonics begin to improve. Guitarist Ivor Talbot shows off the new depth in sound of the regenerated Comedy. During 'Thrill Seeker', the vocals become more clear and the intensity of the sonorous guitars grows. From the melodic rock of 'Generation Sex' to the melancholic rock of 'Regeneration' - dedicated to the victims of the Strasburg concert tragedy - the musical growth is well-established. Perhaps it's a disappointment to some fans, but it's a transition which is acquiring them a new credibility as a rock band and a live act.



And Hannon's image has made the same transition as his music. With his fly sunglasses and long hair a la Kurt Cobain, Hannon looks a different man, a far cry from clean-cut image of yore. He even spills some beer during 'Perfect Love Song'.



But he was all apologies throughout the show, whether for the lack of sound or for too much sound, whether for the delay or for the premature "See you soon". "We're sorry we were so late. All I can say is, it wasn't our fault!" he says, justifying their brief, 45-minute set to the audience. "We know it was the French PA!" Who cares, everybody loves what you do.



Talia Soghomonian

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