Tag Archives: Mansun

Paul Draper

O2 Academy 2, Oxford
7th March 2018

The late-90s Chester-based Britpop band Mansun spectacularly imploded during the recording sessions for their fourth album, not long after a low-key UK tour in the late spring of 2002, the Oxford date of which your correspondent reported on in this very magazine – even standing in the same spot as tonight.

Since then, the band’s driving force, main songwriter and singer – Paul Draper – has been through the wars, his absence taking on a mystical, enigmatic quality (accentuated by his current Last Jedi-era Luke Skywalker hair and beard). This tour is the second outing for his debut solo album, 2017’s Spooky Action, plus a (fan-chosen) full set of Mansun’s debut, Attack of the Grey Lantern, twenty-one years after it topped the UK album charts.

Hopefully Spooky Action is catharsis – Paul’s gone on record to say that it’s about Mansun and the people around them – and the lyrics certainly allude to some dark times. Sonically, the seven-song mini set hints at how the Mansun sound would have developed: ‘Don’t Poke the Bear’ precedes anthemic rock squealing with a dissonant synth and rambling string introduction, and ‘Friends Make the Worst Enemies’, understandably self-indulgently, takes Mansun’s falsetto and vocal harmony style into more regretful and reflective territory.

Paul perks up and relaxes in ‘Taxloss’, three songs into Grey Lantern, as if the knowledge that everyone in the room knows every word, every cue and every backing vocal for the rest of the night is a comfort.

The night is the sum of possibly unnecessary yet welcome nostalgia for a fanbase who feared they’d ever hear Paul play again, but also a timely reminder of how a bizarre yet coherent ‘half a concept album’ about an array of inhabitants in a fictitious English village (‘Stripper Vicar’, ‘Dark Mavis’) struck such a chord with the British record-buying public two decades ago.


From Nightshift, April 2018


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


Zoe Bicat, Spygirl and Joe Hughes – The Cellar, Oxford – 4th November 2002

British Sea Power – The Zodiac, Oxford – 15th October 2002

Trademark – The Jericho Tavern, Oxford – 29th August 2002

Cumulonimbus, Nervous Testpilot and Blunt Instruments – The Cellar, Oxford – 12th August 2002

a-ha – Royal Albert Hall, London – 25th June 2002

Fischerspooner – The Bridge, London – 30th May 2002

Mansun – The Zodiac, Oxford – 19th May 2002

The Soundtrack of our Lives and Sahara Hotnights – The Zodiac, Oxford – 11th May 2002

AM60 – The Cellar, Oxford – 31st January 2002