Paul Draper – 26/2/18 The Caves, Edinburgh

It’s called “The Caves” for a reason. It’s a dark and peculiar venue where things that reject the light would feel right at home. Paul Draper should feel very much at home…even at his most anthemic and radio friendly there has been a dark and troubled heart beating beneath the surface. It’s a strange crowd that have left the comfort of their homes on this freezingly cold Auld Reekie night…a bag of Dolly Mixtures; there’s a man wearing a horrible jumper stood just in front of me, a chap with dreads behind me and a few Mansun t-shirt wearers near the stage. In a shadowy corner I think I spot a girl in a pair of Mansun trainers…could be my imagination.

Draper is in Edinburgh as part of a UK tour that partly promotes the new and that partly celebrates the past. Solo album “Spooky Action” is the new and “Attack of the Grey Lantern” is the past. Audiences are given a crash course in his position as a contemporary artist with something to say before being reminded that at the height of Britpop his band, Mansun, said things that nobody else was saying and in a way that nobody else was saying anything.

After a short set from a support act so self deprecating that he didn’t introduce himself the lights go down and the moment that people have gathered for draws a little closer.

Draper tears through a set of solo material that shows someone at the peak of their abilities. No nostalgia here, no trading on past glories, no sympathy for the devil of yesterdays.

His voice…that voice…has grown stronger. It soars over our heads then plunges into our hearts. The music pounds, throbs, pulses and rattles off of the walls and across our bones.

Melodies fight it out with tunes.

This is more than “jobbing musician”, which is how Draper self-deprecatingly describes himself. This is the thrills and spills of genuine talent.

Opener “Don’t Poke the Bear” is a menacing, glorious, riot of a song and the bulk of the audience are singing along…testament to the reach of his new material and the loyalty of his fans. After “Grey House” Draper asks “Did anyone come to my last gig Here? Did anyone come to the S&M club that was on here last week? That women did…she can’t stop laughing!”. It seems entirely appropriate to find him in a venue that hosts an evening dedicated to the other side of love!

A “stool section” (Draper sat down…nothing scatalogical) sees him take a gentle shot at Noel Gallagher, “We’ve been doing this stool section for a while now…Noel Gallagher made a fortune out of it.”

After a handful of other songs from “Spooky Action” and a b-side it’s all over. I’ve been blown away by what I’ve heard…a powerful set of songs all delivered with real emotion and power.

I came, I don’t mind admitting, for the songs I heard when I had a full head of hair and a head full of dreams. I left having made the decision not to even mention them…that is how good Paul Draper was tonight. He made me fall in love with now.

***SETLIST***

Don’t Poke the Bear

Grey House

The Silence is Deafening

Things People Want

Jealousy is a Powerful Emotion

Friends Make the Worst Enemies

Feeling my Heart Run Slow

Who is Wearing the Trousers

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