The Peter Pan of pop, Neil Hannon looked as if he hadn't aged a bit as he took to the stage at the intimate West London venue. It's been 14 years since he was last there for the launch of Casanova. 14 years and he hasn't changed a bit, visually or vocally. The gig was a real treat, comprising material from his upcoming 10th album, Bang Goes The Knighthood (due out on 31st May) and a heavy presence of old classics.
The evening was a solo affair; he didn't even have a support act. Hannon took to the staged armed with just a piano, a guitar and a bottle of red wine. In a black bowler hat, he kicked off with The Complete Banker, a new song charting the demise of the country's economy in the comedic way that only Hannon can. From this it was immediately clear that we can expect great things from the new album. Upcoming single At The Indie Disco referenced 90s Britpop acts reminiscing about the bygone era, yet managed to sound current at the same time. These new songs already seem familiar even on first listen, a credit to Hannon's ability to combine catchy pop melodies with intelligent lyrics - instantly memorable.
Donning a pair of thick rimmed spectacles, Hannon asked the audience who they thought he looked like. 'Rolf Harris' shouts one man; 'Elvis Costello' says another. 'I thought I looked a little like Michael Caine, but who am I to judge' shrugs Hannon, before performing the classic hit from Casanova, Becoming More Like Alfie, to rapturous applause. Other classics included Pop Singers Fear Of The Pollen Count, Songs Of Love and Tonight We Fly. But showing that he could lend his voice to pretty much anything, Hannon performed a cover of MGMT's Time To Pretend on the piano to the delight of the audience.
The tiny, atmospheric venue lent itself perfectly to Hannon's one man show, and it was a show. As ever, the banter and wit were flowing. And the audience were encouraged to join in at every opportunity, from providing the brass section and whistling on Frog Princess to telling a joke on Can You Stand Upon One Leg, the last song of his main set.
He returned for an encore of yet more classics, including the gorgeous 'If...' which was performed to stunned silence before ending on the upbeat note of National Express, again using the audience as backing singers. This wasn't just a trip down memory lane for Divine Comedy fans; it was proof that with the release of his 10th album imminent, Hannon still has what it takes. He is vocally brilliant, with a range to match his grandiose tunes and his new material sounds as fresh and relevant as ever. It is fantastic to see him perform with a big band in venues like The London Palladium and The Royal Albert Hall, but this intimate, stripped down gig was one in a million.