Paul Draper, lead singer of 90’s band Mansun, came to celebrate the 21st Anniversary of their seminal debut album Attack Of The Grey Lantern, as part of a 14 date UK and Ireland tour which brought him back to Belfast nearly 20 years to the day since he last played here.
He released his debut solo album Spooky Action in 2017 and had already given us a heads up that this tour was a show of two halves. The first half would be playing songs from this solo album with the second seeing him play Attack Of The Grey Lantern in full.
Paul Draper strolls onto the stage nonchalantly to the intro from his opening track Don’t Poke The Bear and what is very quickly evident is that his style is still very Mansun-esqe with a heavy drum beat and a proper thumping bass line. The full band sound is loud but is accompanied by an extremely crisp and clean backing vocal from keyboard player Christina Hizon.
What is noticeable is that in spite of the fact there is an Attack Of The Grey Lantern billing for the shows the new songs are well received by the Belfast audience and maybe this is down to the fact the new tunes don’t stray too far from the sounds of Mansun. There are plenty of sing along moments in this first half of the show. Grey House is a loud, banging and magnificent tune and it is sounding great.
Paul Draper gratefully accepts a pint of Guinness passed from someone in the audience. The show is a bit like that tonight. Like seeing an old friend from way back for the first time in ages but knowing nothing much has changed.
Friends Make The Worst Enemies seems to be cranked up a notch or two for the live shows and this is the general theme. The show has a high energy and it just looks like Paul Draper is having a great time on this tour.
In between songs he comments that these days people reckon he is looking like Luke Skywalker. In all honesty he is not too far wrong. Just go Google him and see.
There is a part of the show which he calls the ‘Stool Segment’ which Paul says is needed these days because of his age. He sits down for one song Jealousy Is A Powerful Emotion, and plays it solo. But the lure of standing again and crashing out some indie-pop-electronic tunes comes to the fore and he plays out the first half of this very entertaining set with Who’s Wearing The Trousers. It is a fantastic collection of new songs but now sets the bar high for the follow up due for release next year.
So the second half of the show, Attack Of The Grey Lantern, in full, rolls into town and in a lot of ways this is what the enthusiastic crowd are ultimately here for. In so many ways this album, released in 1997, was ahead of its time and it still sounds bang up to date now, even some 20 years later. Everyone there tonight now knows what songs are coming their way. The Chad Who Loved Me kicks it all off and lets be honest, right from the off this is just going to be one big sing along. The heavy bass line is driving this show.
Mansun’s Only Love Song has a squealing guitar riff and sounds like a forerunner to The Charlatans 2001 release Wonderland. The song carries a heavy bass, banging drum beat, sing a long lyrics with a sprinkling of electronica to finish off the concoction.
Taxloss taps in on the obvious influence of his hometown of Liverpool and pays respect to the familiar Beatles sound. The audience is high on enthusiasm and needs absolutely no encouragement to sing along.
Paul Draper lets everyone know that they are all going out for some craic after the show. His exact words being “how could you come to Belfast and not get twatted!”
I suppose there is an underlying build up in the room from knowing that Wide Open Space is on the way and when it comes the place goes absolutely mad. It is a huge anthem and surely one of the best known songs from the 90’s era. It is one for audience participation and Paul Draper duly obliges and hands the chorus over to this Belfast crowd who nearly take the roof off.
Stripper Vicar is absolutely bouncing and the old cliche that ‘time flies when you are having fun’ could not be more apt for everyone here tonight.
We are treated to the psychedelic intro for Disgusting and it carries with it Paul Draper’s broad scouse twang. The evening is just building and building and show no signs of letting up. When the band plays She Makes My Nose Bleed you can taste a Noel Gallagher guitar riff and Egg Shaped Fred gives you that perfect opportunity for a na na na na na sing along.
Dark Mavis is such an anthem and as Paul Draper told me in a recent interview for Gigging NI it’s a song title people have named their cats after. This is unlikely to ever top the fact that Mansun fan Paul Campbell from Ballymena has named his dog ‘Draper’. It’s a true story but what an accolade. Strains of The Verve and a melancholy Radiohead run through the veins of this song.
With none of the usual encore farce the show ends with An Open Letter To The Lyrical Trainspotter and it drifts on and on. So much so it could probably go on for the night and no one would complain, except these early finish shows these days at The Limelight are the norm to allow the disco kids in for the rest of the evening! It’s emotional as the song brings to the end a near perfect show.
Paul Draper has promised he will be back next year to play Six, Mansun’s second album, in full and it leaves a happy audience starting to count down the days until the next time.