the red penguin

Neil Hannon – Felsted School, Felsted

A bit of an oddity tonight, seeing Neil Hannon in Felsted School of all places!

I worked as an accountant for Brentwood School in the 1990s and heard the name several times in meetings, but I wasn’t actually quite sure where Felsted was in Essex. But we found it. And like Brentwood School, driving through the campus was like being transported back to another world.

I remember having had a lot on my mind when I went to this gig, having recently told my business partner of 13 years to stick our business up his arse, as I’d decided to leave to take on a job which had no guaranteed income at all. Thankfully I never lived to regret a single day of that decision.

This was billed as a Neil Hannon solo show, but it was basically a Divine Comedy gig as he doesn’t realise much under his own name, apart from film soundtracks. You can see from the setlist it’s pretty much all Divine Comedy stuff.

A great intimate show in a very unusual setting with an excellent setlist. The mystery of why he was playing here is solved in the report below – it was due to one of the school’s music teachers being in the band.

From the Herts and Essex Observer:

FOLLOWING a warm welcome by students to Felsted School’s oak-panelled Grignon Hall, enter stage left The Divine Comedy’s Neil Hannon.

The 41-year-old was invited to perform as part of the Felsted Olympiad, a cultural and artistic programme launched by the school to celebrate the Olympic year.

His appearance was not entirely coincidental, as his band’s percussionist Rob Farrar teaches there; earlier in the day, Neil had given talks on the art of songwriting to sixth-formers.

In front of a packed house, Neil played a solo set spanning his 23 years as founder member of The Divine Comedy.

The intimate surroundings were ideal for his witty, entertaining and self-deprecating interludes, both between and during songs performed on grand piano and acoustic guitar – the two instruments Neil admitted he could play, but not very well.

Despite having taken a break from performing to concentrate on musical theatre, including his adaptation of Swallows and Amazons, he drew the audience into the colourful and eloquent imagery of his poetic storytelling, set to a beautifully intricate, melodic tapestry.

Personal highlights were Your Daddy’s Car from the 1996 album Liberation, Have You Ever Been In Love and the topical The Complete Banker, both from 2010’s Bang Goes the Knighthood, plus the melancholy and moving A Lady of a Certain Age.

The two-hour set, which unusually included a moment when the audience were invited to talk amongst themselves during a song (I don’t remember that!) closed with 1999 hit single National Express to rapturous applause.

    Set 1:

  • Assume the Perpendicular
  • Your Daddy’s Car
  • Have You Ever Been in Love
  • The Complete Banker
  • Everybody Knows (Except You)
  • The Frog Princess
  • Generation Sex
  • A Lady of a Certain Age
  • Songs of Love

    Set 2:

  • The Plough
  • The Lost Art of Conversation
  • At The Indie Disco
  • My Lovely Horse
  • Becoming More Like Alfie
  • Lucy
  • Our Mutual Friend
  • Tonight We Fly


  • The Summerhouse
  • National Express

Friday 24 February 2012, 148 views

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