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Review: 'Draper, Paul / Flo Perlin'
'The Crescent Community Centre, York'   

-  Genre: 'Indie' -  Release Date: '21st November 2018'

Our Rating:
If, in many respects, Mansun were one of the 90s also-rans. But they were always apart from their peers, and while it may have been to their detriment in terms of commercial success – how many other major-label bands would have slipped out more than an album’s worth of quality songs as EP B-sides? – they secured a fan-base with a rare loyalty. In addition, the fact they bowed out early instead of plodding on into lacklustre mediocrity (and I say that despite finding ‘Little Kix’ hugely disappointing at the time) and with so much unfulfilled potential has doubtless enhanced their reputation in the long term. And so it is that Paul Draper, having made something of a gradual return after some epic wilderness years, is playing his first solo acoustic tour in support of his debut solo LP and has sold out a string of venues around the country. And coming close to selling out a decent-sized venue in York on a Wednesday night is quite an achievement. It’s clear from the early doors showing that there’s a lot of enthusiasm for Paul as the carrier of the Mansun legacy.

Flo Perlin’s four-piece setup, comprising interchangeable permutations of acoustic guitar / ukulele / violin / box / piano keys deliver the gentlest of acoustic gypsy folk with some nice close harmonies. Their style is understated, the songs quiet, with hints of jazz in the blend, with the results being mellow and light, but reflective and meaningful.

Pau Draper is chatty from the moment he arrives on stage, accompanied by an extremely young guitarist who fills out the arrangements with some very tidy playing. He makes an instant connection with an extremely supportive crowd before opening with ‘Spooky Action’ cut ‘Friends Make the Worst Enemies.’ It’s immediately apparent that he’s still got the voice, and hits the high notes (at least most of the time, and he’s also savvy enough to know when to avoid them, too), and he’s swiftly into the Mansun back-catalogue, too, with ‘Disgusting’ and ‘Negative’, the latter being one of only two songs lifted from ‘Six’ – perhaps not surprisingly, given its superabundant use of layering, studio trickery and the complexity of the extended song structures that define the album.

No-one would have been disappointed by the renditions of ‘Wide OpenSpace’ and ‘Legacy’, and the inclusion of ‘The Chad Who Loved Me’ and encore ‘Dark Mavis’ made for a crowd-pleasing set. Meanwhile, representing ‘Little Kix’ with ‘Until the Next Life’ instead of one of the singles and the decision to play solo EP track ‘The Silence is Deafening’ and ‘Keep Telling Myself’ from the band’s abortive fourth album, which would posthumously surface on ‘Kleptomania’ is indicative of both the depth of quality material at Draper’s disposal, and his characteristic perversity in avoiding the obvious and populist path.

The stripped-back arrangements don’t remotely detract from the songs, and if anything, showcases the quality of Draper’s songwriting. And while there’s unquestionably a strong nostalgic hue to the occasion, the fact that half the set consists of new material that’s on a par with much of the old material, paired with the fact Paul’s clearly enjoying playing rather than simply going through the motions of a greatest hits set elevates the atmosphere and justifies the allegiance of the fans – of which I’m one, if there was any doubt. He may be older, more thickset and rugged-looking, and less of a (skin up) pin-up than 25 years ago, but Paul Draper’s definitely still got that special something – and that voice.

  author: Christopher Nosnibor

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Draper, Paul / Flo Perlin - The Crescent Community Centre, York
Flo Perlin
Draper, Paul / Flo Perlin - The Crescent Community Centre, York
Paul Draper