M's American Divine Comedy Tour Diary
Please click on a date below to see pictures from that particular concert.
New York City: December 9, 1996
Fortunately, the rumors flying around Europop, the Divine Comedy mailing list, about a New York City show held true. Although I am from New York, I was studying in Boston at the time. I made plans to take a trip down, regardless of a class presentation I had the day after the show.
The Divine Comedy played CBGB's The Gallery. Well, just Neil and Joby, to be more accurate. It was an odd venue. There was a "stage" if you could even call it as such with plastic lawn tables and chairs surrounding it. Neil was standing at the bar, talking to Epopper Rachel. I politely invited myself into the conversation, by giving Neil a rose. He was very flattered and embarrassed and became even more so when I told him about traveling to see him. After a quick conversation and signing session, my friend and I secured a table in the front. Eventually, the venue was packed with people standing along the side and in the back.
I was very curious to hear how the music would sound with only two instruments- guitar and keyboards. It was incredible! I could not believe how they were able to scale down the music so much while maintaining the integrity of it. They previewed three songs from A Short Album About Love and covered "Jackie." Despite not feeling well, Neil gave everything he had for the performance.
After the show, I decided to follow Neil. Lucky I did because he sat down at a table to chat with a surprise guest- Jarvis Cocker of Pulp! A few others spotted him too but we all left the two alone. Neil left early and after I said good-bye to him, it was time to talk to Jarvis who by the way, enjoyed the show.
New York City: Monday, April 14, 1997
It was about time DC had some sort of American tour. They played dates in San Francisco, Los Angeles, New York, Washington D.C., and Boston. I made plans to travel yet again to the New York shows. Unfortunately, they were several days apart due to booking at the venue so I had to stay a few days, blowing off my internship and classes.
This time DC was playing The Fez. The ground floor has a cafe and in the "back room" there is a lounge. The Fez is located downstairs. I went inside to meet a friend and a couple of Epoppers. I found Neil in the lounge doing a photo shoot, which from the looks of it wasn't very interesting for him. Epopper Rachel was there so I joined her on the side to gawk at Neil.
Once the shoot was over, I handed him flowers. He kissed me on the cheek. Much has passed- he wasn't as bashful and embarrassed as he was at the CBGB show. He and Joby left to get ready. Rachel introduced me to a Scottish Epopper, Richard H, and another New York Epopper, Barbara.
My friend and I found seats in the front. The setup of the venue was odd. It resembled spokes on a wheel with the tables stretching out from the stage. Anyhow, there was a magic trick after the opening act. Unfortunately, for me, I was chosen to help. Very embarrassing.
Neil and Joby entered shortly after. This time, Joby played on a grand piano (which had lots of fingerprints on it!). Another brilliant, relaxed, and intimate show. Neil dispensed his usual wit and kept asking where we all come from because they haven't released anything in the US. Neil must have conveniently forgotten about imports. He sang the line "Now you're my only friend" from "Everybody Knows" to me, making me giggle. One of the highlights of the evening was a performance of "My Lovely Horse" before the final song.
I had a quick chat with Neil afterwards and asked for more autographs. I also met Tim Broun, the Setanta rep at the time.
I would have gone to Washington D.C. if only I had more money, but more importantly, if I was familiar with the area or knew someone there.
New York City: Friday, April 18th
This time, we were not allowed into the lounge. I was disappointed because I had another gift for Neil. I told Tim who assured me there would be a chance after the show.
I met Rachel who introduced me to a Canadian Epopper, Jackie. We also met Darren, a British Epopper, and his friend. What a fateful day it was for Darren and Jackie! There were a couple of Epoppers at the show from the NY area and after the show, we very briefly met another one from the D.C. area.
The show was packed, with more tension and excitement filling the air. Well, the press was in attendance this night! I should know. A photographer was kneeling in front of me for most of the show. Supposedly, Gary Gary Beers of INXS was trying to get in to the sold-out show and there was someone who resembled Robert Plant. None of us could decide if it was him or not.
What can I say except it was another excellent show. Neil was not as talkative but he later told me he felt it was musically better. It was loads of fun being with fellow Epoppers. Our mooing and bahing through the middle of "Lucy" made Joby laugh hysterically. Darren provided complimentary backing vocals. Heaven knows what the rest of the audience thought of us!
As luck would have it, Neil and Joby covered "Jackie," coinciding with Jackie's trip to NYC for the show, and the Stephen Merrit song "The Dead Only Quickly." Neil sang the end of "Woman of the World" to me, making me feel so embarrassed that Darren had to hold my head straight so we wouldn't lose the eye contact. Here's another highlight: When Neil and Joby came out for the encore, Neil sat down at the piano and played a few bars from John Lennon's "Imagine." Darren shouted the Oasis song "Don't Look Back in Anger." Much to our amazement, Neil went to his chair, picked up his guitar, and sang the chorus of the song! He then remarked dryly, "great band."
After the show, we met Neil for chats and autographs. I was able to give him the present. We were shooed out of Fez though because there was another concert. Tim informed us of the bar Neil would go to so we went there. The rest of the night was spent there.
Cambridge: Saturday, April 19th
I had to rise and shine early in the morning to head back to Boston which was no easy feat. I did catch my train and dropped off my luggage so I could meet my friend in Central Square. By the way, the show was actually not in Boston, but across the Charles River in Cambridge. DC were part of the Loud Music Festival and played at the venue The Middle East at the upstairs sage. (There's a larger space downstairs with a stage.) My friend, David E., had an interview with Neil and I was his, err, "photographer." It didn't matter anyway since it was relaxed. Dave's interview went well. (see Lawrence’s site Indulgence) We had an off the record discussion which included Neil's response to Europop. He thinks we use him for our means and he may as well be running a dating service! He signed my scrapbooks, prompting him to ask if I was going to knife him. Maybe I helped inspire "Grizzly Knife Attack"! I also gave him his final gift.
We said good-bye to Neil and Tim and watched a couple of the bands and get a space up front. By the time DC took the stage, it was crowded. Since they were part of a music festival, they could only play for about 40 minutes. They skipped over "Someone" and they did not have time to play the encore of "Something For the Weekend". Despite all that, it was a great show. Neil was his talkative self and asked if they were popping our little eardrums since it was a loud music fest.
Neil and Joby and their entourage left immediately after the show to go to Newark, New Jersey where they would be catching their flights back to the UK. I went outside to the van, took pictures with Neil and Joby, had my last conversations, and said good-bye. I also met Yukako, who writes l’eretico and traveled overseas to see DC.
It was only four shows, but it was a thrilling experience and I was elated to have Neil and Joby in the States. I do hope they will return soon (especially with the band)!