Support from Steve Hewitt's Love Amongst Ruin.
Let’s start off by saying writing this review is going to hurt my heart. I expected a nostalgic trip down memory lane but left feeling sad. The tragic passing of Pauls father meant the tour had to be postponed and this likely played a large part in what I witnessed. Having read write ups of when he toured his first solo album I fear things have been going this way for some time.
I was shocked on arrival to not see any drums on stage, I had no idea this was a stripped back acoustic tour which isn’t necessarily my first choice but sometimes it makes for a nice change.
Kicking off the evening was Steve Hewitt’s Love Amongst Ruin, musically they were pretty good. Two old school rockers belting out melodic rock that was easy on the ear and a pleasant listen. Giz is clearly one hell of a guitar player. I don't think I’ve ever watched someone play an acoustic guitar with such passion! Unfortunately however the set was marred by the feeling they didn’t want to be there. Particularly Steve who moaned about being too hot, then about not having enough reverb then about having too much reverb. The audience didn’t help as apart from me who was stood at the barrier everyone else stood so far back they may as well have been in a different building! At one point Steve suggested everyone should “move forward, it’ll sound better” which they did begrudgingly. All in all the sheer lack of enthusiasm or joy from the band made me feel very uncomfortable and spoiled what could have been a really good set.
After that I was even more excited to see Paul Draper. Mansun was the second gig I ever went to and the band played a massive part in shaping my music taste. I’d looked at the Setlist online beforehand and saw a few Mansun songs including Legacy which has always been my favourite.
He walked on stage looking like a man many many years older than his age, he looked full faced and rather frail, a shadow of the man I’d watched all those years ago. He rattled through songs off the new album which were good and played on his voice's strengths however for the Mansun songs such as Disgusting or The Chad Who Loved Me it was clear his voice was no longer able to carry these off particularly not acoustically.
At various points throughout the set he announced how he had started smoking 60 a day, thought out lockdown and needed vocal sweets that “we’re legal you can get them in Boots” which was obviously said to be funny but just made me feel sad that such a talent could knowingly risk destroying his voice. By the 3rd or 4th time he mentioned this to the crowd it became uncomfortable.
There was a lot of distraction around getting his phone to take pictures of the crowd to post on Social Media plus an over enthusiastic fan who tried to shout and have a conversation with Paul multiple times between songs. Which all in all just made me feel awkward.
Overall musically it was good, but not great. The new stuff was definitely better than the old but to me it was very upsetting to see someone I idolised growing up looking so weathered and in worse shape than bands I’ve seen who are much much older. I just couldn't see past that for the entire gig.
I’ve watched some of my favourite Britpop bands in more recent years and most have surpassed expectations. Unfortunately Paul and Mansun are one I wish I’d left in the memory bank and not attempted to relive my youth. I tried so hard to think about ways to write this review in a positive light because accepting how I felt about the gig was hard, but I have to write from the heart and being honest this gig broke mine.