2 Gigs, 2 Venues, 1 new album, 1 week, 1 band: MANSUN
Maida Vale Studios: Monday 14th August.
Many before had pondered the unexplained musical mysteries such as the whereabouts of Richey Edwards and the highness of Mark Greaney's voice; I was about to add a new one to their list. You see 'me' and 'winning' are two words never used in the same sentence, it just doesn't happen or so I thought?So you could imagine my shock when I opened my inbox and amongst the mass of Spam mail I notice those wonderful words 'MANSUN WINNER', suppose there's a first for everything and believe me this was a first?
The gig was never going to be just your average run of the mill show, oh no, 10 competition winners + guest were invited to see the band record a live set for Radio One's Evening session. The recording was to coincide with the bands third album release 'Little Kix' hailed as 'epic, soulful, mournful rock.'
Having never been to Maida Vale before I didn't quite know what to expect, would the band play in one of the proper studios? or would they play in the ones with the stage at the front? All I knew was that round here Live doesn't exactly mean Live as such, instead the set is pre-recorded hours before its eventual broadcast (in fact those in London had the chance to not only hear the set being recorded but could go home and listen to its broadcast!) Our questions were soon to be answered as we were led to studio 4, by all accounts a real studio with the band playing in a circle formation with Paul in an individual sound booth and the audience situated on a balcony above, gazing down.
The set was to focus mainly on the new album, but this didn't mean older songs were left out, in fact the set was perfectly balanced with basically a 50/50 split of new and old which included many fans firm favourite and set closer 'Take it easy' *After a short interview with Steve Lamacq, latest single *'I can only disappoint u' *got the musical proceedings underway. From our position in the audience, the 50-minute set was polished with the new album tracks sounding very good if not great in many places. I felt that in many respects the songs off of *'Little Kix' *stood out from the earlier album tracks, showing a natural progression and in many ways, a new band maturity and harmony. This is especially true when placed next to the tracks from the previous album *'Six'. My only criticism of the night would go, not towards the boys themselves, but towards the actual venue, as I found it in many places very hard to hear Paul's vocals. But to be fair this didn't detract as it gave us all a chance to concentrate on the musical and instrumental side of the album, especially Andie and his Kick-ass rhythm section! And besides we could always listen to the radio broadcast to catch up on Paul's vocal meanderings.
The set list for the evening ran something like this? ' I can only disappoint u'- *I must admit, on first hearing this as a single, I wasn't entirely convinced, but it definitely grew on me, and this live performance aided that growth. Throughout the song you can almost hear Paul Draper's voice warming up. *'Born a girl' (pt1)- What happened to part 2 ?!. I particularly enjoyed this number, not only for the musical quality but for Paul's movements in his sound booth! 'Comes as no surprise'- First previously unheard track off of the new album, and the signs are looking positive. This track came across fantastically live, an epic if you will. Taking the focus away from the vocals this is a track I feel instrumental balance is perfect throughout. 'Special/ Blown it' - Another fan favourite- this song even managed to create atmosphere with only a small crowd. 'Electric man'- Soon to be released as their next single, was played with the intro slightly slowed down, helping to articulate a sort of naïve frailty in Paul's voice. The song comes to life during the mid sections, with the introduction of not only keyboards and string sections, but a change in vocal direction. This is definitely better as a live track. 'Love is'- *Great keyboards, an almost funk-driven bass and a powerful percussion composition are all present on this track. Some of the backing vocals are not as prominent in this one as a live track, which can be taken as a criticism, but only a minor one at that. *'Wide open space'- A Mansun classic, yet still Paul manages to forget a large proportion of the lyrics and their running order! Personally this track, although good in this surrounding, I believe is more fitting and certainly more powerful given a festival situation. 'She makes my nose bleed'- Much more energetic and to a certain extent crisper in sound when played live compared to recordings. The addition of slightly extended pauses and almost delayed drumbeats all add to the live effect. The whole set up and tone of this track, including both instrumental (esp. keyboards) and vocal complexion is greatly enhanced. This was probably one of my highlights of the night. 'Take it easy'- As already mentioned this was to close the set, a slightly extended version due to there being an overlap of time, gave each member of Mansun a chance to fully maximise their instrumental credentials. Everyone, and I mean everyone was dancing in some form or another!
Well with the musical entertainment over it was time to catch a few words, get a few souvenirs and of course watch 'Big Brother' with Mansun themselves. This was to be the case until the Maida Vale staff decided to kick us all out, yep that includes the band as well!
As far as live radio sets go, I think it's fair to say that this one was particularly impressive.
V2000 Chelmsford Highlands Park. Sat 18th Aug. MTV Stage
*After charging more per band than any other festival, and forcing us to pay extortionate amounts for their drinks, they only go and put the two best bands of Saturday on at the same time. No I'm not talking about Travis and Supergrass, I mean *'Mansun' and 'The Flaming Lips'. *Fucking Typical!! After weighing up the pros and cons, in the end we settled for Mansun. At this point in time I would just like to mention that being against the barrier and having a crowd fired up by a *real **Bloodhound Gang performance bearing down on me really brought JJ72's "We don't need Oxygen to breathe" to mind!
The set list was pretty much the same as Maida Vale, with just a few added extras and a slight change in the running order. You always know that the set is going to be something special when 'Take It Easy' is played as an extended opener. Fantastic, especially Paul's interaction with the crowd, which included running up to the front row and generously spraying them with water- and I mean generously I was soaked (but momentarily relieved from the heat of a hot summer's night). Proceedings then followed Maida Vale with the inclusion of 'Being A Girl Pt2' and firm-favourite 'Stripper Vicar'. This was a definite crowd pleaser, I was more than a little surprised at its exclusion from the Maida Vale set list to be honest, but the boys certainly made up for that here. The entire crowd seemed to be jumping, singing and working themselves into a frenzy, pretty impressive, as from what I could make out, the crowds seemed to stretch as far as the eye could see. The set was finished with a glorious, energetic 10 minute version of 'Taxloss', The atmosphere throughout was never anything short of electric, but this was soon to be surpassed by the finale- a true performance, that both crowd members and band members seemed to be loving. Any criticism and points of contention with the latest album are easily forgotten when viewing a performance such as this. Possibly my festival highlight, certainly my Saturday highlight, I truly was left with that great feeling, a feeling that kept me buzzing into the wee small hours of the night. Fantastic!