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Q&A: Neil Hannon, frontman of The Divine Comedy on Norwich, Latitude Festival and sock-related injuries

PUBLISHED: 16:10 10 November 2017

Neil Hannon of the Divine Comedy performs during the Electric Picnic festival in Stradbally, County Laois. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Friday September 1, 2017. Photo credit should read: Niall Carson /PA Wire

Neil Hannon of the Divine Comedy performs during the Electric Picnic festival in Stradbally, County Laois. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Friday September 1, 2017. Photo credit should read: Niall Carson /PA Wire

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As frontman and chief songwriter of The Divine Comedy, Neil Hannon has a wealth of musical experience.

Neil Hannon, of The Divine Comedy Neil Hannon, of The Divine Comedy

The Northern Irish chamber pop act last performed in Norwich in October 2016 at OPEN, as they toured their 11th studio album - Foreverland.

Having briefly retired to the studio to work on their dozenth record, Hannon and co return to the fine city next month, this time playing the Nick Rayns LCR.

Ahead of the tour, which starts in Edinburgh on November 22, David Hannant caught up with the Derry-born singer.

You last played in Norwich around this time last year - what brings you back so soon?

I couldn’t stay away - Norwich is a very nice city.

Last time we were here we had a lovely amble around and were particularly enjoyed all the old, castley type things - just like Ireland - which for history-types is always a positive.

What expectations can people have from your show at the LCR?

For those that came to the last gig, it will be the same people and about half of the same songs, but that’s about all that will be the same.

One thing people who come to our shows say is to expect the unexpected. It is not a magic show but it is always different.

I like to make it almost feel like a constant conversation between myself and the audience, so that is a big part of what makes no two shows the same.

You have 11 albums with a 12th on the way - how do you pick setlists from such a big back catalogue?

That is something I have been wrestling with for the last few days. I’m trying not to make it too scatter gun, as shows need to have a structure - a beginning, a middle and an end. Certain songs lend themselves to parts of the show better than others.

Last time out, I felt we had a really good set, but I can’t just keep doing that every time - I’d get bored, the audience would get bored, we would all get bored.

There will though be certain songs we will always play though - like National Express and Lady of a Certain Age.

You played Latitude Festival this summer, and previously did so with the Duckworth Lewis Method, What are your experiences of the festival?

Latitude always has a really nice vibe.

If I’m being honest, I don’t actually like playing at festivals - I prefer my concerts to be in nice warm theatres if I can help it.

There are probably only four or five festivals I really enjoy and Latitude is one of them. That may sound like faint praise, but it must mean it is good if I like it.

How are you feeling about going back on tour?

Once we get into rehearsals and get back on the road I know I will love it, but at the moment it seems a wrench to pull myself away from the white hot fire of creativity.

The thing is though, they are two different facets of the same job - playing live and making records.

It’s very interesting, as you have to be so outgoing on stage but I am quite an extrovert off of, so writing and recording really suits me personally.

Can we expect any of the new songs to be tested out on the road then?
Not this time - it would be too soon. I don’t want people to hear things until they are ready and it is quite a long process - the next album won’t be ready until the autumn next year. However, the shows will give us the chance to play a few songs we haven’t played in a while and offer a few surprises.

Sher Lock on Twitter would like to know how your back is? What is the story there?
I put my back out around last September, a few days before we were supposed to play three nights in Spain. I did it in the least glamorous of ways, how most men in their mid to late 40s do - trying to put on my socks.

However, we still did the shows though. I’ve been doing this for more than 20 years and have never cancelled a gig - I have a 100pc record. We’ve had shows cancelled on us, but never when it’s been up to us - you can’t keep me down.

My back is fine now though - it was very kind of Sher to ask.

How will people go away from the gig feeling?

I want people to come away feeling confused, but elated. We will all have a laugh, maybe some beverages and all go away going ‘do do doo’.

The Divine Comedy play the Nick Rayns LCR in Norwich on Saturday, December 2. Tickets are £33 and can be bought from the UEA Box Office website or on 01603 50 80 50.

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