The Divine Comedy - Manchester Hop & Grape - 16.2.01

Its so sad. Just how did we let one of Britain's most musically ambitious bands turn into this. As soon as Neil Hannon and his cohorts walk onto the stage you sense that all the rumours whispered round the venue might be true. If before we had a bit of Posh - a suited and booted charmer - we now have the visual stimuli of Badly Drawn Boy on a bad day. Ok, maybe that was taking things too far but you get the idea. But I blame Nigel Godrich, I really do!!! For the ill-advised and uneducated Mr Godrichs' claim to fame is producing Radiohead amongst various others and for its detriment he wielded his wicked ways on the new DC album "Regeneration". But Radiohead are a musical soundtrack to the post millennium tension I hear you cry? And they also can be one of the most dreary self indulgent bands on planet earth.

The likes of "Dumb It Down" sums up the new material more than any hack ever could. If you can imagine Radioheads "No Surprises", strip away any trace of a tune and what you are left with is Divine Comedy 2001. A musical ready meal for the Coldplay generation  and its worth noting now that the band recently signed to Parlaphone (home of both Radiohead and Coldplay). Its only on "Mastermind" and "Regeneration" that the band have any of the wit and flair of the old days. The latter ripping off Led Zeps "Kashmir" with the sort of casual abandon we've come to expect from the Oscar Wilde's of pop.

Then just as you feel we have them pinned into the corner Neil Hannon returns for an acoustic encore of "National Express" and "Becoming More Like Alfie". It just goes to show that if a song is good enough it doesn't matter whether its played with just one man and his guitar or a 40 piece orchestra set up. How the mighty have fallen to such depths of drudgery is beyond me because on tonight's evidence Neil Hannon will be seen joining the Twisted Nerve stable before playing with Robbie Williams again.

Alex McCann