The Zodiac, Oxford
19th May 2002
It’s always daunting to go a gig of a band you love at which they are introducing new, as-yet-unreleased material. So I went off to see Mansun at the Zodiac trying suppress my high expectations – but, thankfully, I wasn’t disappointed. Without the keyboards, the epic arrangements of previous performances weren’t possible, but their new songs didn’t suffer; the highlight was the radio-friendly and catchy Keep Telling Myself, although the punky and bass drum-led Secrets, guitar-heavy Slipping Away and mellow This Is My Home also stood out. They extended and sometimes improvised parts of their older songs, especially the set-closing seminal Take It Easy Chicken, and singer Paul Draper – whose current haircut (and the way he threw his head around) made him look scarily like Thom Yorke – tried to make a slightly unenthusiastic crowd sing bits of Legacy and even the early album track The Chad Who Loved Me.
Like at every other Mansun gig I’ve been to, something went wrong – this time a temporary amp failure – but a bloke in the crowd, whose impromptu slightly off-tune acappella Wide Open Space was praised by Draper, filled in the pause nicely. The lads from Chester looked cool and invigorated; their new stuff displayed a songwriting maturity that only comes with experience, while still keeping characteristic chord changes and Chad’s deft lead guitar riffs. I wasn’t even too bothered that they only played an hour of ten songs without an encore; they weren’t yet touring to promote the new album (due in Autumn), and so could slot new stuff in between crowd favourites without having to try too hard to match the crowd’s expectation.
All gigs should be like this: familiar Mansun played perfectly with a new twist, and new Mansun that was different to anything they’d done before but still – unmistakably – Mansun.
Photo: © Richard Whitelock