LIVE REVIEW: Paul Draper – Rough Trade East, London

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In 1997, Paul Draper, with his band Mansun, released their debut album, Attack of the Grey Lantern. XS Noize recently reviewed the twenty-first-anniversary re-issue, finding that this Mansun debut had stood the test of time, having, “a bittersweet plethora of emotions and was perfect as it was and still is perfect and will continue to remain perfect over the next twenty-one years”. To celebrate the reissue, Paul Draper performed an intimate one-off gig. The last time Paul appeared at Rough Trade East was in August 2017 to promote his debut solo album, Spooky Action, one of the first live gigs Paul had performed in fifteen years.

In August 2017, Draper could find no poker face to conceal his nerves, nonetheless, despite an idiot wind on a couple of occasions blowing away the backup handwritten lyrics and chords; Paul was still able to bring enlightenment to his performance and demonstrate his adroitness as a singer/songwriter and live artist. The fans were glad Paul was back. Fans and the media would want more of Paul. Spooky Action would enter the official charts at number nineteen, receive a plethora of glowing reviews, and then embark upon copious sell-out tour dates. This time around, Paul with an acoustic guitar, IPad with back up lyrics and chords (plus a beer for Dutch courage), with touring member, Ben Sink on electric guitar, was definitely not nervous. Draper was in good spirits, he was excited (as were fans) that the reissued Mansun debut was number eighteen in the official mid-week chart.

Paul announced he would begin with The Chad Who Loved Me. An appropriate choice, after all, Attack of the Grey Lantern opens with this haunting, charming anthemic classic, the “antithesis to what fans had previously heard or expected from Mansun and other artists categorised in the Britpop genre”. One wondered how Paul would captivate the complex cacophony of the production of this track with the absence of the strings. The strings were missing, but the soul of this track wasn’t. Paul vocals were powerful, ethereal and still peaking twenty-one years later. His passion and enthusiasm for this song as well as his debut LP had not waned.

As well as The Chad who loved Me, Paul also wowed with Disgusting and played out with Wide Open Space. The soul, warmth, perplexity, elated ecstasy and bittersweetness of these Mansun greats and classics shone through. Joyful, loud, out of key singing from the bowled over audience confirmed that Attack of the Grey Lantern has stood the test of time and can still reach out and enlighten. Alongside Attack of the Grey Lantern classics, Paul played material off his debut album, Spooky Action, as well as B-side, The Silence Is Deafening, from his debut solo EP. Spooky Action, not even in its first year, has won the hearts, souls and minds of Mansunites; they were singing along to and celebrating the new material Draper played. Friends Make the Worst Enemies and Things People Want to give fans the festival high they found when they first listened to Attack of the Grey Lantern.

Paul Drapers Rough Trade East gig did more than promote and celebrate the reissue of what can fairly be called a “classic” album; it also celebrated Paul Draper as a superb singer-songwriter, who despite not having performed for fifteen years, was able to come back and show with his Spooky Action LP, that the best is yet to come. It is because of the musician who Paul Draper is, not who he was back in 1997, why Spooky Action has been nominated for the 2018 Progressive Music Awards.

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