After years out of the limelight following the demise of Mansun in the early 2000s, Paul Draper re-emerged in 2017 with his debut solo album.
It was the first new music by the singer and guitarist since the posthumously released Mansun triple album Kleptomania – and many lauded Draper’s return.
Fast forward to 2022 and Draper is back with his second solo album Cult Leader Tactics and on Friday night he headlined Esquires in Bedford.
Joined by regular guitarist Ben Sink, the duo’s 13 song acoustic set largely comprised of tracks from his latest record and Mansun favourites – with just a couple from 2017’s Spooky Action.
Opening for the pair were Love Amongst Ruin – led by former Placebo drummer Steve Hewitt who was joined by Gizz Butt, best known for his band Janus Stark and as The Prodigy’s live guitarist in the late 1990s.
When Draper returned as a solo artist and toured his debut album and subsequently Mansun’s beloved debut LP Attack Of The Grey Lantern, there was a sizeable swell of excitement.
It’d been a decade and a half since many fans had seen some of the Britpop era’s classic hits live.
And while there were moments of greatness during Draper’s headline gig at Esquires, it didn’t quite hit some of his past highs.
Esquires is a venue regularly packed to capacity, so it was odd to see its main room half-filled on a Friday night.
Maybe fans are still a little hesitant returning to venues following Covid lockdowns, maybe some were less drawn to a stripped back acoustic show or maybe it was just something else.
Draper and Sink remained perched on chairs all night, the former's face hidden behind the peak of his hat.
They opened with the title track of Draper’s latest LP followed by Annie before the Mansun classics Disgusting and Negative both upped the atmosphere.
When Draper did pause to speak to fans inside he was on good form. Early on, he huddled fans together for a photo, then joked he was no longer allowed near his social media accounts.
Later in the set, he poked fun at someone unable to whistle in key – joking it was probably someone he was in a band with years ago.
Besides giving fans the chance to hear music from his latest album, other highlights of the night included Spooky Action’s Don’t Poke The Bear and Mansun hits The Chad Who Loved Me and Wide Open Space while the two song encore featured a rousing rendition of recent single You've Got No Life Skills, Baby!
More than a quarter of a century since Mansun emerged, Draper still has a voice to be reckoned with and hopefully at some point in the future, fans will be able to hear tracks from Cult Leader Tactics in the full form they deserve.
Paul Draper played:
Cult Leader Tactics
Friends Make the Worst Enemies
Disgusting (Mansun song)
Negative (Mansun song)
Don't Poke the Bear
Legacy (Mansun song)
The Chad Who Loved Me (Mansun song)
U Killed My Fish
Wide Open Space (Mansun song)
You've Got No Life Skills, Baby!
Lyin Bout Who U Sleep With