Divine Comedy is Neil Hannon is Divine Comedy. It’s a Badly Drawn Boy /Damon Gough dynamic which means there will never be different line-ups… unless Neil plans on major schizophrenic schisms. Hannon does sometimes play with a band but tonight it’s only Neil, armed only with a grand piano, acoustic guitar, pipe and tweed hat.

And you don’t want, nor need, for anything else. Neil Hannon is one of the finest craftsmen of the quintessentially perfect pop song that these isles have produced in many years (he’s originally from Northern Ireland). Not only does the music have a kind of music hall, show tune sensibility but the lyrical content is pure poetry. He’s a kook, no doubt about it, who looks like he’s just stumbled out of some dusty Oxford boozer. Who else would write a concept album about cricket (2009’s “The Duckworth Lewis Method”), pen the theme tune to Father Ted or write songs about such mundane British things as National Express coaches, indie discos and Alfie?

Tonight he steps onto the stage in hat and pipe, the uniform adopted for latest long player “Bang Goes The Knighthood” (he’s a kind of Bowie-esque chameleon, only less alien transsexual… more village pub dandy). Kicking off with a track from “The Duckworth Lewis Method”, he plays through a perfectly formed set of older tunes and newer ones from the Knighthood album. Accompanying himself either at the piano or on guitar, highlights include “Frog Princess”, “Songs of Love” and, from the more recent material, “The Complete Banker”, “Assume The Perpendicular” and my personal favourite “I Like”. Yes, I do indeed, Neil. Another fab moment is “The Lost Art Of Conversation”, a song ambitious enough to take as its theme the need to converse more, even offering suggested head starts within the lyrics: “let’sstart by talking tactics / With pepper-pots and matchsticks / Here’s how we practice the lost art of conversation… / David Jason / Francis Bacon / Frank Lampard”. What I would pay to have an elastic afternoon in the pub with Neil Hannon and the chance, over one or two or three too many pints of Guinness, to practice.

It’s parlour pop, pop with A’ levels, grown up pop songs interspersed with hilariously comic moments from Hannon. So….the perfect gig, right? Wrong. It’s in completely the wrong room. Thankfully, Hannon seems to be able to pull decent crowds these days; however the flipside of that is a sold-out and over-subscribed crowd jostling for position in the sweaty shoebox that is Academy 2. As Hannon is often sat at the piano it’s hard to see anything from where we we’re stood – how much better it would be to have had the gig somewhere like the Royal Northern College of Music, where I recently reviewed Badly Drawn Boy. Let’s face it – this is not crowd-surfacing-mosh-pit grunge – it has more in common with Oscar Wilde than Metallica. And as myself and my missus are not exactly blessed on the vertical axis, it’s hard to get a butcher’s at what’s going on.

If, however, you would like a review of the back of the tall chap stood in front of me for most of the gig, I can provide a most detailed account….

Simon is a writer, broadcaster and countercultural investigator. Over the last 15 years he has written for everyone from The Guardian to Loaded magazine, presented television for Rapture TV and hosted radio programs for the likes of Galaxy. He has also found time to earn a Masters Degree in Novel Writing and write three books (a collection of journalism, a guidebook to Ibiza and one on financial planning for young people – the most varied publishing career it’s possible to have) and establish and run a PR company, Pad Communications, looking after a range of leisure and lifestyle clients.He currently splits his time between researching his PhD at Leeds University, looking into various countercultural movements; consulting freelance for PR clients; writing for the likes of Marie Claire in Australia, The Big Issue and the Manchester Evening News, where he reviews concerts, theatre and is their Pub & Bar Editor. He is also broadcaster, appearing regularly on Tony Livesey’s late night 5Live show for the BBC, and also for BBC Radio Manchester Gourmet Night food and drink show.Simon’s main focus has been music and travel. His career has included editing Ministry of Sound’s magazine in Ibiza for two summers and also writing two long-running columns for DJmagazine – ”Around The World in 80 Clubs” (which took him everywhere from Beijing to Brazil, Moscow to Marrakech) and “Dispatches From The Wrong Side”. A collection of the latter was published in the UK and US as the book Discombobulated, including tales as varied as gatecrashing Kylie Minogue’s birthday party, getting deported from Russia, having a gun held to his head by celebrity gangster Dave Courtney and going raving in Ibiza with Judith Chalmers. He has recently written for the likes of Red magazine, Hotline, Clash, Tilllate, Shortlist and the Manchester Evening News. Pad Communications has recently consulted for clients as varied as Manchester nightclubs and New Zealand toy companies.On a personal note, Simon is a Londoner who left the capital at the age of 18 and never looked back. He sees himself as a citizen of the global dancefloor having lived in Sydney, Los Angeles, Ibiza and Amsterdam. However his life is now rather more sedentary. After all his adventures he bumped into and subsequently married his highschool sweetheart from their North London Grammar. They now live in Stockport with their four children and four chickens, trying to live the good life. Simon recently turned 40 and is steadfastly refusing to have a midlife crisis – as in, growing a ponytail and buying a shiny red sports car.OK, maybe he’ll buy the sports car…