sat 20/07/2024

The Duckworth Lewis Method, Queen Elizabeth Hall | reviews, news & interviews

The Duckworth Lewis Method, Queen Elizabeth Hall

The Duckworth Lewis Method, Queen Elizabeth Hall

Howzat! Cricket fanatics bowl a googly

Duckworth Lewis play a blinder

There cannot be many famous rock songs that mention cricket. Roy Harper's poetic "When an Old Cricketer Leaves the Crease" springs immediately to mind. And 10cc's "Dreadlock Holiday". And then the trail goes fairly cold. Until 2009, when The Divine Comedy’s Neil Hannon and Tommy Walsh of Pugwash collaborated on their inspired Duckworth Lewis Method concept album.

It may not have topped the charts, but it did land them an appearance on Test Match Special. And last night’s live rendition as part of the Meltdown season garnered them the kind of standing ovation usually reserved for double centurions at Lords.

One can see why Meltdown curator Richard Thompson booked them. Thompson is settled in California these days and they must make him think nostalgically of cucumber sandwiches and Noël Coward. Hannon and Walsh might be Irish but there is something quintessentially English about this project, named after the arcane formula for calculating the winning score during rain-affected limited overs games. Fortuitously the gig was as well timed as a Botham six. By a nice coincidence the two statisticians who devised the Duckworth Lewis Method were awarded MBEs in the Queen's recent Honours List.

Despite protestations that they had barely rehearsed, Hannon, Walsh and their full band managed to be tight where they needed to be tight, loose where they needed to be loose. One of the highlights, "The Age of Revolution", about how the rise of Twenty20 had crashed its way through the residual class barriers of the gentlemen/ amateurs era, had an almost Beatlesque reggae lilt to it. A sort of "Dreadlock Holiday" with smarter lyrics.

Elsewhere Hannon chuckled that they are "superstars in Pakistan" thanks to "Meeting Mr Miandad", their multi-harmonied ode to one of that country's batting giants. Walsh countered, however, that he was "still signing on in Dublin", adding a touch of reality to the proceedings. They make a good comedy double act, with a nice physical contrast. Hannon is a willowy, wistful David Gower lookalike, Walsh is built out of most of the bits of WG Grace.

Everyone, however, was waiting for "Jiggery Pokery", an entire song about Shane Warne's miracle ball that resulted in Mike Gatting starting the 1993 Ashes with a duck. "If it had been a cheese roll you wouldn't have missed it," remarked a wag, back in the days when wag meant something very different. Hannon sang, but the hubristic lyrics come as if from Gatting himself: "I took the crease to great applause and focused on me dinner/ I knew that I had little cause to fear their young leg spinner."

The album was not a normal album and this was not a normal gig. During the instrumental "Rain Stops Play" a backing track kicked in, up went umbrellas onstage and drinks were served to the quintet. All was going swimmingly. The problem was that the band was booked for a 90-minute slot and only had one album to play. So after completing their innings with "The End of the Over", Hannon explained that they were now going to do all the other cricket songs they knew. Sure enough, out came "When an Old Cricketer Leaves the Crease". No "Dreadlock Holiday" though.

And that was not all. The Divine Comedy’s brilliantly jaunty "Bad Ambassador" (“about Freddie Flintoff”) followed. I'd been trying to work out who the biggest influence on DLM was all evening and then the final encore revealed all. Hannon doffed his hat to his unlikely heroes ELO with a soaring cover of "Mr Blue Sky" before a frantic gallop through Booker T and the MG’s "Soul Limbo", otherwise known as the BBC Cricket theme, wrapped things up. Howzat? Absolute genius.

Watch video of "Test Special" live at Rough Trade East

Hannon is a willowy, wistful David Gower lookalike, Walsh is built out of most of the bits of WG Grace

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