By Milan Perera, Second Year English Literature and Community Engagement
He is an unlikely cult hero. A cross-section of the audience is a testament to his enduring legacy. Some of the audience members were not even born when he was basking in fame during the heydays of the alt-pop/rock band, Mansun of which he was the frontman.
After his critically acclaimed second solo album, ‘Cult Leader Tactics’, the Liverpool born singer-songwriter has embarked on a UK tour which included an appearance at intimate Bristol-based venue The Fleece. ‘Cult Leader Tactics’ is a satirical commentary on self-help manuals, replete with a generous dose of self-effacement and pragmatism.
When Draper appeared on the stage to the raucous applause of the adoring fans, he beckoned them to come closer to the stage in the manner a raconteur would gather an expectant audience. It had the air of an old friend coming to your living room for a cup of tea and a chat. The headliner was seen swigging a bottle of Peroni alongside a cup of potent herbal tea made from three tea bags while he was engaging with the crowd.
The evening featured an array of stripped-back renditions of hit songs from ‘Cult Leader Tactics’: tracks such as ‘You’ve Got No Life Skills, Baby!’, ‘U Killed My Fish’, ‘Everyone Becomes A Problem Eventually’ and ‘Annie’ went down a treat with the audiences. Draper was deftly accompanied on the stage by the brilliant Ben Sink who displayed nonchalant virtuosity on guitar.
The frontman of Mansun is a curious melange of an Old Testament prophet and a self-help guru who you would love to take out on a pub crawl. Like Job, he endured many a tribulation; like Jeremiah, he has seen destruction around him, but like Isaiah, he is full of optimism. His warmth and candour were immediate and uncontrived. He recounts that one track for the album was written on the motorway after being unceremoniously dumped by his then-girlfriend.
The audience was encouraged to join the chorus of several tracks such as ‘Talkin Behind My Back’ and ‘Dirty Trix’. The fervent audience responded with verve and vigour, much to the delight of the Liverpudlian singer.
The lyrics of the songs that feature on the recent album are raw, poignant, and unburnished - they are readily relatable. Draper muses on love, loss, disappointment, and anger. But the gig was brought to a close on an optimistic note: ‘Just let there be love, at the end of the day, we've ridden our luck..’ from the bookend track of the album, ‘Lyin Bout Who U Sleep With’.
Even after the taxing evening, Draper was seen signing autographs and cracking jokes with fans without the slightest irritation; his love for his fans is immediate and sincere.
Featured image: Milan Perera
Have you listened to ‘Cult Tactics’?