John Scott pops along to The Caves in Edinburgh to see Paul Draper. 

Back in 1997, Mansun’s album Attack Of The Grey Lantern hit the number one spot in the UK album charts.  Now, to celebrate the album’s 21st birthday, former Mansun main man Paul Draper is taking it out on tour and playing it in its entirety.

Manson outsold Hanson two to one during their respective weeks at the top of the charts but I’d be willing to bet that more people could name the American brothers’ hit from their album than any of the tracks from …Grey Lantern.   1997 was all about The Spice Girls, Oasis, Blur and Radiohead and it seems in retrospect that Mansun came and went again without anyone really noticing.  Or did they?  On the evidence of tonight’s show, perhaps not.

The stage at The Caves is situated et the end of what is basically a subterranean stone vault, not boding well acoustics-wise for a loud rock gig.  As it turns out, the sound is not as bad as you might fear but as goor as you might hope for.  The band come over reasonably well, although the keyboards are occasionally buried, but Draper’s vocals are largely incomprehensible.  This, as we shall see, is not so much a problem for the second part of the show but slightly mars the opening set which features songs from his new album, Spooky Action.

Tonight, Draper is supported by a four-piece band; Beau Barnard on bass and Jon Barnett on drums provide a solid grounding for Christina Hizon’s keyboard embellishments, while Ben “The most Static Man In Rock”  Sink dazzles inconspicuously on lead guitar.  They say that you know that you are getting older when policemen start looking young; the same is evidently true of lead guitarists as Ben looks barely old enough to buy the bottle of beer that he occasionally sips from.

The songs from Draper’s new album go down well enough with the twenty to fifty-somethings packed into The Caves tonight but there is little evidence that they are particularly familiar with the material.  All that changes, however, when Draper and the band return after a short break.

The second set sees Draper and the band play Attack Of The Grey Lantern In its entirety, something that Mansun never did.  As the taped intro to The Chad Who Loved Me fades, the crowd take up the vocals along with Draper and this remains pretty much the state of play for the remainder of the show.  Mansun’s Only Love Song is taken up with aplomb then Taxloss sends the place into a frenzy.  Combining two songs from The Beatles’ album Revolver –  Tomorrow Never Knows and Taxman along with Little Jimmy Osmond’s Long Haired Lover From Liverpool has never seemed a better idea.

Since I appear to be one of the few here who isn’t intimately acquainted with …Grey Lantern’s lyrics, it’s Draper’s melodies that really impress.  Combining the best aspects of Blur, Oasis and Pulp they have the audience bouncing at every opportunity.  Wide Open Space’s blissed-out euphoria is a particular delight.

It’s hard to tell whether Draper is as impressed by the audience’s reaction as I am but as we hurtle through highlights like Stripper Vicar and Egg-Shaped Fred, Draper  promises that he’ll be back next year at a bigger venue with Mansun’s follow-up album, Six.

The evening’s encore, An Open Letter To The Lyrical Trainspotter, is a singalong song with meaningless lyrics about about a singalong song with meaningless lyrics.  Draper encourages the audience to wave its hands along with the chorus; his intended irony, however, flies unheeded over many of those upraised hands as everyone is, with an extra helping of irony, too wrapped up in having a brilliant time.

Paul Draper is on tour until 8th March.  Catch him if you can.

John Scott

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