Words: Jim F / Pictures: Huw Williams
It’s been a while. Last time I saw A Certain Ratio -Manchester indie-punk/funk royalty was at a hometown gig at the G-Mex on a Factory Records night, with New Order and fresh faced Happy Mondays. 15,000 tickets sold in 45 minutes, at least according to the greatest pop impresario of them all, Tony Wilson.
In the intervening years, it just hasn’t happened – I’ve never been free, or I’ve missed it didn’t even realise they were out and about rather than not being bothered, so I finally got my act together and went along to The Crescent in York for their ‘45’ tour, celebrating their 45 years together and promoting recent (and really good) album 1982.
No support for the septet tonight, instead they play two 45 minute sets that traverse their vast catalogue and circumvent the various elements of indie, funk, punk, post-punk, acid house, dance and other genres their music has flirted with over the years. Starting with All Night Party and ending the night (save for the encore) with songs from their most recent album, much of it done in almost chronological order (seemingly anyway, without pouring over discogs), and there’s basically everything you’d want to hear from Shack Up to Good Together, to Knife Slits Water and beyond.
The point is this though. ACR are a brilliant band of brilliant musicians who may have skirted around the charts their whole career but give you a fantastic night out, and are rightly revered by the crowd and (generally) the music scene.
Original (well, virtually) members Jez Kerr, Martin Moscrop (surely one of Britains most fashionable men), Donald Johnson and Tony Quigley are central and with the exception of Quigley who sticks to his saxophone all night pretty much, they all play a variety of instruments during the evening, Moscrop topping the league table with drums, drum pads, trumpet, guitar, percussion and bass, but special mention to Donald’s imperious bass playing when he ventures out from the drum kit.
Elsewhere the mainstays surround themselves with brilliant musicians, with the amazing Matt Steele on keys and a second bassist Viv Griffin joined by brilliant new Manchester vocalist Ellen Beth Abdi, who definitely has the soul (we’ll definitely keep an eye/ear out for her own stuff, but can also bring the punk and the funk to proceedings.
I implore you to see ACR at your earliest convenience, I’m already waiting for new material next year, and the chance to see them again.