I never got to see Mansun play live, but I adore those first two albums, so getting to see Paul Draper play my favourite Six in full tonight has got me a bit excited. My expectations are unfairly high as I walk into Gorilla. Six is a complex album, full of studio tricks, loops, time changes, it’s a brilliantly warped piece of work. For such a random collection of songs, they melt together perfectly. To the point that I’ve rarely thought of these as individual songs, its journey from beginning to end. I know that sounds pretentious. I don’t care. The big question is, will it translate live? Draper is joined by a full band, but declares at the start “It’s fucking hard to do this record”. Title track ‘Six’ straightaway keeps everyone on their toes. It’s a twisty sod, but sounds ace and already I’m confident that this is gonna be good. Draper asks for help and gets it with choruses of “Life is a compromise anyway”. He does lose his place a bit, but we forgive him, embrace the glitches, it makes a performance even better, particularly when you’re humble about it. The drummer gives it full beans on ‘Negative’ and it goes off. Well around me anyway at least, having moved into the centre of the room, with every prick at the back trying to film the entire set. Idiots. ‘Shotgun’ is a bonkers opera all on its own, Draper sounds wonderful, even after coughing due to the smoke machine drowning the stage in a brief Spinal Tap moment. The sublime piano intro of ‘Anti Everything’ is spine tingling, with the singalong resuming before that batshit trip hop scratch kicks in. They barely miss a beat, this is the first night of the tour but it’s clear some serious work has put into this. As the nutcracker loop cranks up they tear through ‘Fall Out’. This really ups the game. It’s a brilliantly ambitious song and still sounds like it’s from the future. Ben on guitar is superb and its central solo is nothing short of epic. It really is banger after banger in this section with ‘Serotonin’ threatening to derail any trains passing above this bunkered venue. It’s too much for one patron, who kicks off and is dragged out by security. I go to a lot of gigs but I’ve not seen that in a while. There’s no letting up though ‘Cancer’ is a riff monster that gives way to pure beauty for its tribal stomp coda, before creating space for the piano once more. It’s gorgeous, haunting and I'm left thinking this is possibly one of the best 'album in full' gigs I’ve witnessed. The lights go down for Tom Baker’s spoken word interlude, which is very nice and settles things for the slower paced ‘Television’. Not for long though as the guitars go full helter skelter. They’ve all got their game faces on. I believe this album was a sod to make. It probably is to play too but fuck me it’s fun to listen to. “Through my TV all my problems gone” is belted out. Grown men are hugging. It’s beautiful. “It’s harder than I thought” Paul says as he introduces ‘Special/Blown It', but it sounds wonderful in this packed out room. It’s time I think the legacy of Mansun and Six were reevaluated. This really is special. As if to confirm this or just illustrate how ingrained this album is in my head it’s ‘Legacy’ that follows with its anthemic chorus that lifts the room. How do you close an album like Six though. Well ‘Being a Girl’ is a pretty damn good way. It’s a punk prog monster with the whole band locked in, with even a couple of smiles from the stage as they realise they’ve done it. Would it translate live I wondered. Yes is the simple answer. Amazingly. There’s 7 more dates on the tour. Do yourself a favour a get along to one.
Paul Draper, Gorilla. 15th March 2023
Updated: Mar 17