LIVE REVIEW: A Certain Ratio @ Riverside, Newcastle (31.05.19) | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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Image by Kevin Cummins

Let’s not beat around the bush here, the influence of A Certain Ratio stretches deep and wide and tall; from LCD Soundsystem and Red Hot Chilli Peppers to Happy Mondays and Talking Heads, their influence is in the very fabric of modern contemporary music, yet despite being held in such high esteem, they’ve criminally never been close to the success they absolutely and so rightly deserve. In support of a terrific new career spanning Mute Records box set to celebrate their 40th anniversary (entitled unsurprisingly ACR:BOX), they’re back on the road and for one night only, in Newcastle.

All Night Party was the first ever single released on the legendary Factory Records label back in 1979, and it’s a real delight to here it opening the set, all droning guitars and impatient bass. A two beat snare drum crack launches the fantastic Do the Du (from the 1980 album The Graveyard and The Ballroom), ACR diving into it with the energy of a band that were playing it for the very first time. It’s simply marvellous. If Nile Rodgers and Bernard Edwards had hailed from Manchester instead of NYC, I imagine this is what Chic would have sounded like. We’re joined by the divine Denise Johnson who shares lead vocals with Jez Kerr for Wild Party. As the band nail the four to the floor, the temperature rises, the Riverside crowd contorted and ecstatic. The claustrophobic funk of Flight is a real highlight among a set full of gems; all glacial pianos, heavy bass and whispered vocals, and followed by the jazz-funk genius of The Fox, ACR are in serious danger of shaking the building to its very foundations. A phenomenal take on Houses in Motion is next up, demonstrating exactly where ACR end and Talking Heads begin. It’s utterly exuberant to behold.

The hour or so long set is a celebratory journey through a selection of real career highlights; Mickey Way being another proper stand-out. Denise simply soars on W.S.L.U, demonstrating exactly why she has been so in demand for the last 20 years, transforming it from a mediocre New Order tinged album track to a modern electro-soul meisterwerk. The main set concludes with Shack Up (of course), the Banberra cover that became the indie-disco staple that almost delivered them the ‘hit’, well, as near as a group with Hitler Youth haircuts and scout uniforms ever got to a real hit. Tonight, it sounds gargantuan.They return for an incendiary Knife Slits Water with Donald Johnson on additional bass duty, popping and slapping like a post-punk Larry Graham. Blooming tremendous.

There’s one thing that rarely gets mentioned when talking about A Certain Ratio; they’re an exceptionally accomplished band. The core of Martin Moscrop, Jez Kerr and Donald Johnson are incredibly underrated musicians, effortlessly flipping between instruments, their playing is at times during this set simply extraordinary. ACR are the rarest of things, a 40 year old band that sound current…maybe the future has finally caught up. It could be their time to take flight. Catch them if you can. They’re an 11 out of 10.

Check out P. J.’s ACR-approved playlist on Spotify.

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