I tried to get out of the habit of going to nostalgia shows, as there’s something strange about wallpapering over memories of seeing bands at their peak with memories of exactly the same people singing exactly the same songs twenty years later.
This is particularly so for the reverent album playback show. Remember how annoyed everyone was when Blur toured their then new album 13 in track order, only playing a few old hits in the encore? They could probably sell out a week at the Barbican doing that now.
I tried, and I failed. Last night, I went to the Electric in Brixton* to see Paul Draper perform the Mansun classic debut Attack of the Grey Lantern, supported by Paul Draper performing his debut solo album, Spooky Action.
Ah, the debut solo album. Some of us have been waiting for it since 2003. As it continued to not appear, he wrote some songs with Skin out of Skunk Anansie, and went to the pub a great deal.***
Decades passed. Paul reemerged, finally, writing with a Welsh academic / pop star under the guise of The Anchoress.
And then, finally, his own solo album.
Which isn’t very good! Oh well.
But it sounded much better live, performed by Draper, now spitting image of Luke Skywalker in The Last
Hamill Jedi, and his band of pretty young things. Importantly, his voice was in good working order, hitting those high notes with Princean ease.
The standouts: The Chad Who Loved Me, Mansun’s Only Love Song, Taxloss, Disgusting, She Makes My Nose Bleed, and a genuinely epic Dark Mavis. Draper seemed slightly embarrassed by Stripper Vicar, and explained the Na Na Nas in Egg Shaped Fred as “we were running out of lyrics by this point”.
The band re-emerged for an encore of the album’s secret track, which still-endearingly mocks everything that had come before…
The lyrics aren’t supposed to mean that much. They’re just a vehicle for a lovely voice…
Already looking forward to him doing Six next year.
*Formerly Fridge. Home to Soul II Soul’s very first gig, according to a proud plaque outside.
**One of the defining albums of my adolescence. I first saw Mansun supporting the Manics at the Manchester Nynex Arena on 24th May 1997. I missed my coach back to Nottingham due to hanging out with a girl I met on the way to the gig, and we ended up spending the night at Manchester Piccadilly station together, waiting for the first train home. The next time I remember seeing Mansun was in Ipswich on March 14th 1998 – almost exactly 20 years ago – with the aforementioned girl, now my girlfriend. I ran to get the last train back to London. And I remember seeing Mansun play at my university, Warwick, later the same year, a gig that tricked me into thinking that this campus on the outskirts of Coventry would be a good bet for gigs. It wasn’t.
Years passed. I remained on the Mansun mailing list, which at some point transmogrified into the Paul Draper mailing list. Chad, the Brian Jones-obsessed guitarist, vanished off the face of the earth. Some say he became a faith healer, dispensing gnomic wisdom from a caravan on the outskirts of Chester. Others say he became an IT consultant. Actually, he’s a sports therapist
*** The poor man went completely off the rails, as he explains in this excellent interview with god is in the tv zine. Key what-happened-to-the-solo-album quote:
I felt at the time that a lot of people had taken advantage of my trusting nature and also the fact I find it difficult to see the bad in people and keep walking into disasters. I didn’t want to walk into another disaster so I gave up on making my own records to some people’s delight, and cancelled my recording contract with EMI which I know seems insane but it makes sense to me. So I went down to the local pub instead, where I stayed pretty much till Catherine dragged me out bit by bit by playing me her songs.