Neil Hannon, York Minster, May 7th 2011

Neil Hannon is a magnificent songwriter and musician.  York Minster is a magnificent venue.  So Neil Hannon at York Minster was therefore a magnificent concert, yes?  No, I'm afraid it wasn't.

It was nothing to do with Mr Hannon himself, who was his usual charming, funny and musically terrific self.  The problem was the acoustics.  Clearly the promoters of this one-off gig hadn't bothered to find out if the Minster in its vast, echoing form would actually work as a venue.

We had tickets in the rear nave, a fair way back from the stage but with a clear view, for which we'd been charged £30 a pop.  We could have chosen spots closer to the front, along the side wall of the cathedral, but didn't because they were described as offering a restricted view.

What we ended up with was seats with a restricted hear, instead, as the sound bounced and reverberated around the rear nave to make almost everything spoken or sung on stage unintelligible.  It was absolutely hopeless, and everyone sitting around us was in the same boat.

Seeing that the seats at the front along the side were unoccupied, a mass of us decided to chance our arms, and fled forwards.  Thankfully, the seats were available, and the view wasn't too restricted, so the gamble paid off.  We were able to hear and enjoy properly the show we'd come to see (ignoring the three cream-faced loons who ended up in front of us, who sat there giggling and whispering and engaging in their own brain-stunted inanities till Hen told them to shut up).

This misses the point though.  We'd paid a lot of money to hear a concert which (had the side seats not been free) we weren't actually able to.  The fact we moved and enjoyed a wonderful set from a maestro is unfortunately by-the-by.

I wrote a letter to the Minster Box Office expressing my disappointment, and they apologized sincerely, noting that:

"we do advise event organisers of the complexities of the Minster acoustics; we have taken your comments on board and will use them to advise events companies in the future."

Fingers crossed it won't happen again, and in the mean time, not wanting to finish on a downer, here is the wonderful, soaring 'Sunrise' with which Mr Hannon finished his show.

Sunrise, by The Divine Comedy