Paul Draper, the former vocalist of 90s cult rockers Mansun, is re-writing the textbook on how to make a comeback. Petitioned out of retirement by his fans, Draper released his long awaited solo debut Spooky Action to great acclaim and a sell-out UK tour. Having proved he can still make relevant music today, Paul turned towards his legacy and announced a tour playing Mansun’s debut album Attack of the Grey Lantern in full for the first time ever, to celebrate its 21st anniversary and imminent reissue (read more about this in our interview with Paul). After playing all over the UK and Ireland, Paul and his band concluded the tour to a 1,500 sell-out crowd at London’s Electric Brixton.
The groovy bass intro of ‘Don’t Poke the Bear’ teased Paul’s arrival, who came up just in time to enter into the wailing verse of this psychedelic cut from his solo album. “I’m going to sing this next one in the style of Luke Skywalker” he joked, acknowledging his resemblance to a latter-day Mark Hammill, and proceeded into the mid-tempo stomper ‘Grey House’. Backed by a superb backing band, Paul delivered a fantastic introduction to his solo material for those old-school fans who had not heard it yet. After a short set of choice cuts from Spooky Action, Paul and the band went backstage to prepare for the main course of the evening.
The interval pushed the anticipation levels to the maximum – anticipation that was released in a jubilant cheer as the string intro to ‘The Chad Who Loved Me’ sounded through the speakers. We sung along to the beautiful chorus in ‘Mansun’s Only Love Song’, while the humorous ‘Taxloss’ had us all dancing and jumping as it climaxed into its Madchester-style outro. The fans who had been waiting for so long to hear these songs – some of them played for the first time ever on this tour – were mouthing along to every word and air-guitaring along to every riff. Paul was basking in the crowd’s adulation, repeatedly stating he had never expected such a reception; this only served to strengthen the crowd’s resolve to cheer him on as loud as they could.
Paul and the band had put together a faithful rendition of the album, recreating the little interludes between songs and peppering them with the original sound effects – it was evident just how much work had gone into getting this right. A special highlight was the vocal trio of Paul and the backing vocals of keyboardist Christina Hizon and bassist Beau Barnard, elevating the melodies to new heights. The night came to a climax during the epic ‘Dark Mavis’, with the entire crowd using what voice they had left to sing the outro ‘na-na-na’s at the top of their lungs. The tongue-in-cheek ‘An Open Letter to the Lyrical Trainspotter’ provided the encore, and thunderous applause accompanied Paul Draper and band on their way off the stage.
In what was a worthy celebration of a cult album, Paul Draper and his band put on a show to remember at the Electric Brixton. Draper has already said that the next UK tour will include a full performance of Mansun’s second album Six, and if it’s half as good as tonight was, then you cannot afford to miss it.