Artists including Radiohead, Kula Shaker, The Charlatans and Fontaines D.C. have played gigs in this intimate venue to promote new material. The ex-Mansun frontman is no exception and has played at Rough Trade East since 2017, when he promoted his debut solo LP Spooky Action. His 2017 was invoked halcyon memories for Mansunites as this was one of the first live gigs Paul Draper had performed in fifteen years.
His 2018 performance in honour of the reissue of Attack of the Grey Lantern twenty-one years after its initial release saw “Spooky Action” by random gusts of wind which blew away the backup handwritten lyrics and chords Draper used as an aid. Fortunately, this didn’t deter Draper and Ben Sink, who joined him on electric guitar. By opening with “The Chad Who Loved Me” and playing out with “Wide Open Space”, Paul didn’t disappoint.
Dressed in black with a camel cap, Paul addressed the micro stage and took the seat to the right of the stage and juxtaposed to him was Ben sink, this time playing electro-acoustic guitar. Ben’s black t-shirt made it clear that this was an event to promote Paul’s new LP Cult Leader Tactics, which said “I’ve Got No Life Skills”, a lyric taken from the lead track which takes “A satirical look at relationship breakups”.
Appropriately Paul chose this song to open the set. Paul playing all the instruments on the single with Jon Barnett on drums is a song he’s justly proud of. Whilst Paul didn’t attempt to practise random ‘life skills’ as he does in the wry, somewhat surreal video, Draper’s voice was strong and didn’t break and conveyed all the meanings and emotions this song intended to express. Ironically, with this gig being the last of the Cult Leader Tactics promo gigs, Paul voice not only held out but peaked. One can’t help but think that the herbal tea he was sipping in a Rough Trade tea mug provided some necessary courage.
The pride Paul has in this new material was undeniable throughout. When Paul sang “Annie”, a song title, he was told it would never see the light of day. Draper earned a double victory by showing he could have a song that could eventually become one of his future live staples. “Annie”, recorded on Cult Leader Tactics using a 1930’s Eavstaff piano, still elated the intimate Rough Trade East via guitars.
Paul showed much emotion with his chosen playout song, “Lyin About Who U Sleep With”. He recalled how he asked fans to record themselves singing the lyric “let there be love at the end of the day” during the lockdown. The London audience was bashful when he invited them to join him in singing along. It didn’t matter; Paul successfully carried this burden alone.
Whilst Paul Draper’s new material haunts and explores the worst of human behaviour, the power of this LP and this acoustic performance proves that there are still “green shoots of hope”.
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