My first time hearing Paul Draper sing in over sixteen years. It’s safe to say I was a little bit excited.
It was August 2017, and something pretty incredible was happening in my musical world: The return of Mansun’s lead singer Paul Draper. Fourteen years after the band had split, he was finally releasing his debut solo album “Spooky Action”, and I was heading down to Rough Trade East to hear him sing live, my first time hearing him since the last Mansun gig I attended in February 2001. Even more overwhelmingly than that, I was gearing myself up to actually meet him for the first time in my life. So it’s safe to say that on this Friday afternoon my nerves were in a somewhat hyperactive state. From my diary, as I was getting ready to head out:
‘The thing is, I’m never going to get this excited again, about meeting someone. He’s my last living idol. This is the only time in my life I’ll meet someone I’ve idolised for the first time. So I should cherish this hurricane of adrenaline and emotions, really.
Also I am boosting my nerve with some Hardy’s Cabernet-Shiraz-Merlot. In the noble words of the Draper three days ago, the wine helps.‘
It had been an eventful week for the Mansun faithful. Three days previously, a select few of us had traipsed to the Ace Hotel to hear “Spooky Action” in full and see Paul interviewed by Matt Everitt, during which he had uttered the aforementioned wise words about the benefits of wine on an anxious state of mind. But wonderful as that experience was, it could not compare to the thrills of this Friday excursion, as my diary entry carries on:
‘Plus am I forgetting the most important thing? He’s going to SING! Sixteen years, six months and ten days since I last heard Paul sing live in my presence, it will happen TONIGHT.
OH GOD IT’S DRAPER DAY!’
The day after Draper Day, I tried to pull myself together enough to describe the eventful evening.
‘Where do I begin? After two and a bit glasses of wine I was very much Ready and as I made my way to Aldgate East with “Spooky Action” on my headphones it felt pretty untouchably epic. Went the wrong way twice but eventually found Commercial Road and tripped down it towards the dingey side streets where Rough Trade resides. Went in to get my CD and wristband, and I could hear a bit of guitar strummage coming from the stage area. I nipped to the loo as the wine was taking effect, and this is how it eventuated that my first experience of live Draper vocals in 16 ½ years occurred in the grimy graffiti-strewn loo of Rough Trade as Paul soundchecked “Friends Make The Worst Enemies”. Ha!’
Not exactly how I’d envisaged my first Draper live experience after so long, but I decided that seeing as I wasn’t really in the presence of the Draper when I heard that, I didn’t have to count this moment of eavesdropping on the soundcheck from a slightly undignified position as my first true live Paul Draper experience.
‘Went back outside and into the queue and we were let in a bit after half past six. I got a nice spot to the left about threeish rows back and had a great view. I think it was a few minutes before seven when the lights went down and Paul wandered to the stage with his guitar and a plastic cup of wine. ‘
At this point in my report I realised that I had forgotten something very crucial so far in my diary reports on Draper Week.
‘Oh I’ve not been recording what he’s been wearing, have I? I must be slipping in my fangirl instincts. I think he pretty much wore the same thing on Tuesday and Friday, all in black, jeans, t-shirt and leather jacket, a little bit crumpled and scruffy, like he’s trying to hide a bit, maybe? I can’t imagine how nerve-wracking it must be, to come out and sing live to your audience after 15 years’ silence, so I can hardly blame him if he feels the need to hide behind anonymous clothes and beard.’
And then it was time to really, properly hear Paul Draper sing live for the first time in over fifteen years. And it was, of course, incredible.
‘And so the moment arrived: “Friends Make The Worst Enemies”, my first live Draper song since 2001, and bloody hell, it sounded amazing. His voice was incredible, its power undimmed by the years, just flawless, strong and beautiful and pure, pure Draper. I anticipated the odd crackle or waver and who would blame him? But his voice is unbelievably even more magical than before. I had not even dared to hope for that.’
The first two songs of the short set were from the new album – so new that it seemed that he wasn’t completely familiar with the lyrics yet.
‘He was reading the lyrics from the booklet of the boxed set, though the light was not good and he made a small error repeating one line. “I’m allowed one fuck-up per song!” he declared and launched into the last track from “Spooky Action”, “The Inner Wheel”. A sinister, spiraling Mansunny tune about the tyranny of anxiety and memory, it was magnificent though a shortened version. he said he made one fuck-up there too but not being totally familiar with the song yet I hadn’t noticed.’
But the amazingness didn’t end here, as something I hadn’t dared to hope for followed: a Mansun song!
‘“Mmm-bop” joked the Draper, before saying it was one the band had never actually performed live, and then launched into “Disgusting”. Bloody hell! That soaring, snarky melody, and Paul sounded divine, as though he’d recorded the album version only yesterday. Hilarity ensued when the fan blew the A4 sheet containing his words and chords off the stand in a moment he had his eyes closed. “Fucking hell! That doesn’t count, that was an act of god” he said as he retrieved it before carrying on with the song.’
I struggled to come to grips with the amazingness of what I was witnessing.
‘So there it was – essentially, my first Paul Draper gig, and yeah I think it was sinking in then, that we have him back, he is here now with an amazing album and gigs to come, and again, I was so happy to be there. This is what London is for! This is why I’m here, why I got on that plane in Nov’96, to be able to witness things like this, to be there, to be part of what is most important to me.’
But the evening was not over yet. I had one more mission to complete: time to meet the Draper!
‘So people were just sort of standing about but I knew from the Manics signing back in ’14 that there’d be some kind of set up near the front of the store so I wandered in that direction and thus managed to be quite near the front of the queue, maybe only ten or so people in front. Paul appeared quite soon and the queue began to move. I was feeling quite fluttery and heartracy and shakey but somehow managed to keep it together as it got close to my turn.’
Approaching the table, I realised that this was going to be a very different experience to my somewhat disappointing time with the Manics three years earlier.
‘So here was a new signing set up on me: Paul was at a little table, not behind a desk as is usual, and fans went up and took a seat on a little stool next to him for an intimate one on one! It was just like having a chat in a café! With Paul Draper!‘
And now I present to you the complete tale of the experience I had this evening of meeting Paul Draper, the man I spent a huge portion of my youth idolising and screaming at from the barrier crush, for the first time.
‘So I sat next to Paul Draper and introduced myself and said how great it was to meet him as I’ve been a fan for a long time.
Paul: Oh, right! Where are you from? Me: Well I grew up in Canada, Australia, Singapore but I’ve lived in London for 20 years now Paul: Okay so you’re a Londoner now like me. Me: Yes!
Oh yes. I’m a Londoner like Paul. He started to sign my CD and I spelled my name for him and then we had a brief exchange about that as he nearly went to put an ‘h’ at the end, so I burbled something about it being the Italian spelling from an opera, and then we got onto the topic of the acoustic set. I told him how fantastic he’d sounded, and he repeated what he’d said on stage about two fuck-ups and one “act of god” which we both said in unison. He said it was pretty good after fifteen years.
Me: It’s like your last show was only yesterday! Paul: (starts to say “it was lovely to meet you”) Me: I can’t wait for the gigs! Paul: Oh you’re coming, well I’ll see you then. Me: (getting up to go) Paul: Thank you for coming, Susanna Me: Thank you for doing it!
Thank you for doing it. Oh, what a wordsmith I am.‘
On leaving the Draper Space, I realised that I had been incredibly fortunate in my encounter with him.
‘Also, how lucky was I? As soon as I stood to go, the security bloke took away the little stool – presumably to make people move quicker along and not sit and chat for ages with Paul. So lucky. And the pic, oh yes, at some point towards the end I asked if I could have a selfie and he said “of course” and so I got a pic with him and I love it, it’s a little blurry and flarey but that adds to the charm, we just look like two slightly pissed chums on a night out.’
I really couldn’t have asked for a better experience this night. To hear Paul singing live again after so long – something even a year or so before I might never have expected to happen – was incredible enough. But to be able to sit and chat with him for a few uninterrupted minutes was something that I, as a very shy and reserved fan, would never have dreamed possible beforehand. It’s safe to say that this evening at Rough Trade East is one of my most cherished memories of my life as a Mansun fan.
Categories: All the gigs of my life