Arts

Divine Comedy man Neil Hannon on Irish tour and new album plans

As The Divine Comedy prepare to embark on an Irish tour next week, David Roy speaks to mainman Neil Hannon about the shows, retiring his now legendary Napoleon outfit and why we might be getting a new double album next year

Co Fermanagh man Neil Hannon hits the road next week for the Divine Comedy's Irish tour

DESPITE a distinct lack of Irish touring around the release of last year's hit album Foreverland, Divine Comedy man Neil Hannon made a point of promising fans here that they'd be "sick of him" by the end of 2017.

True to his word, the Derry-born Co Fermanagh-raised songwriter and performer is hitting the road next week for a five date jaunt around his native land, the first 'proper' Irish tour for his top 10 LP which features newly minted Divine Comedy classics such as How Can You Leave Me On My Own, A Desperate Man, Catherine The Great and Funny Peculiar, the latter a duet with his partner Cathy Davey.

The album also provided Hannon with the perfect excuse to dress up like Napoleon when performing the song Napoleon Complex, a playful tune about short people with big ideas – a bit like the 5ft 6 Divine Comedy leader himself.

While Hannon pulls off the 'bicorne and tunic' look rather well, next week's Irish shows will be your final chance to catch him in Napoleonic garb (in public, at least) as the Foreverland campaign reaches its conclusion.

When we spoke, he was looking forward to his first concentrated run of homeland gigs for quite some time, prefaced by a handful of English dates just to get himself nicely warmed up for us.

"We rarely do a second tour for any album," Hannon tells me. "But the demand was quite large last year and earlier this year, so we decided 'why not?' If people want to come, we'll give it to them.

"From one tour to another, I like to rip it all up and start again. So, it will be quite different to what we were playing earlier in the year – we're doing six or seven songs that we haven't done for years.

"But of course, there's kind of a 'spine' of songs that I really can't leave out – like the one about the bus [1998's top 10 smash National Express].

"And, I dare say that Napoleon will still rear his ugly head at some stage."

Will he be sorry to see 'him' go?

"It's really good fun dressing up as Napoleon – you should try it," laughs Hannon. "He works very well for the Foreverland stuff – it's kind of the vibe – but sadly, his time is up. Angels [the costumers] are tapping their fingers on the desk wondering where their costume has got to."

All good things come to an end, but thankfully not before the Divine Comedy's first proper Irish tour for ages.

"Ireland is a different kettle of fish from across the water," he explains as to why we've only had three Irish Foreverland dates so far, including a sold-out Belfast show at Cathedral Quarter Arts Festival and a triumphant night at Dublin's Bord Gais Theatre back in February.

"Basically, [it was down to] nervous promoters. It was the first time we'd done somewhere the scale of Bord Gais, so they went 'well that's fine – but you can't play anywhere else!'

"But we were always going to come back to Ireland later on."

Indeed, Hannon is looking forward to playing Belfast's Ulster Hall again, a venue he hasn't played for a number of years.

"And the last time would have been a solo show," he recalls," because I didn't tour with a band for [last album] Bang Goes The Knighthood. So this will be our first full production tour there for a long time."

Even with the Foreverland campaign now winding down, the exciting news for Divine Comedy fans is that Hannon has already been working on a new album, tentatively scheduled for release next year – and it's a double.

Perhaps he's making up for lost time, given the six year gap between Bang and Foreverland, but one thing is for sure: you won't be hearing any of the new stuff live until the album is done and dusted.

"It's too fresh, we'd just get them wrong – and then we'd be depressed," Hannon explains. "It really helps to have them nailed down on a record before you play them live, just to kind of know what you're trying to play. The first time people hear a new song, I want it to be exactly how I envisaged it being heard."

:: The Divine Comedy play Cork Opera House (Mon Dec 4), Limerick's University Concert Hall (Tues Dec 5), Millennium Forum, Derry (Wed Dec 6), The Ulster Hall, Belfast (Thu Dec 7) and Dublin's Olympia Theatre (Thu Dec 7). Tickets available via Ticketmaster outlets.

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