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A Certain Ratio - FAC251, Manchester - July 17th 2010 (Live Review)

Monday, 19 July 2010 Written by Adam Simpson
A Certain Ratio Live At FAC251

On the 17th July in Factory’s new venue, FAC251 in Manchester something rather special happened. One of Factory's original bands, A Certain Ratio came home. ACR who were one of the many legendary acts which Factory had signed for the company during the late 70’s, played in front of a packed audience, who crammed into the small, intimate venue.

We spoke to a guy who had travelled all the way from the States to the North-West venue, just to see the group. Now that is commitment and tells you a little something about ACR. All around there was an atmosphere of excitement and anticipation as the hordes waited for ACR to play their set.

Opening with one of their classics, Do The Du the group then played through an hour long set of old and new combined, with tracks from the group’s new album, Mind Made Up and they did not disappoint as their funky rhythms and banging beats had the whole crowd swaying.

The gig was coolness personified; it was as funky as James Brown and all set in absolutely the right venue. FAC 251. Factory’s old office buildings now turned into a 3 floor club and live music venue.

The blend of punk and funk, works incredibly well, it always has for ACR and the fact that the new material is somewhere near the material the group were putting out 30 years ago is a credit to them, nobody did what ACR did and nobody probably will, the unique sound is absolutely addictive and truly sets the group apart, watching and listening to the group live you can see and hear elements which have inspired other acts over the years. The Stone Roses, The Happy Mondays, New Order will have all taken inspiration at some time or other from this act, because the comparison in sound is as clear as day.

The set was great, let’s not get carried away, these guys are not young men anymore, but they gave it their all and performed pretty much without fault. Deep thumping bass from Jez Kerr, an incredible skin splitting performance from Donald Johnson, whose huge beats from his drum kit were absolutely fantastic, jangly, scratchy, funky guitar chords from Martin Moscrop, a great performance on the keyboards from Liam Mullen and the groups very own “Bez with talent” Tony Quigley, who jammed throughout the set, playing keyboard effects, samples and the clarinet and then there was the groups backing vocalist, Denise Johnson, who’s soulful vocals were unbelievable and her huge vocal talents suited the groups funky style perfectly.


There were a couple of technical issues, the microphone levels where not quite perfect. It was difficult to hear Jez early on when he sang, the group were well known for their thoughtful, punk inspired lyrics and unfortunately during the early part of the set you did struggle to hear his lyrics, but this improved later in the set, the keyboard volume could have done to have been turned up a notch and the group had also pre recorded a lot of the material and you could particularly tell that the bass was played over this rather then being 100 per cent live, especially when the odd note wasn’t played and the much quieter pre recorded bass was heard instead. But I’m not going to get too hung up on this, it was fantastic, it was a privilege to be there and not only did I leave safe in the knowledge that I had just watched a fantastic gig, I also left feeling quite nostalgic, nostalgic about the music and nostalgic about Factory Records and the Manchester music scene.

A Certain Ratio played music that is timeless, if a new group came onto the scene playing that style of funky, bass ridden music, nobody would call it out of date, instead it would be applauded as the next big thing. There is a reason why they are still playing to decent crowds today and the audiences age was mixed, there where people in that crowd who will not have been born when ACR first hit the Manchester clubs and that is a credit to them.

So overall it was not a gig without fault, but the faults fade into obscurity when compared to the merits on show, in particular Donald’s whacking of his drum kit, the beats were absolutely huge and his participation in the set, relentless. Jez Kerr’s bass was unforgiving, you couldn’t just hear it, you could feel it and as simple as his bass playing may be, that warm, deep sound he produces is absolutely awesome, Liam Mullen is a very talented Keyboard player, the chords he played were brilliant and aside from anything else it was just great to see a group roll back the years and jam in front of you like they really did enjoy it. Full of effort, enthusiasm and funky, punky greatness, this was a night to remember.

Photography by Tony Tinegate from www.TKPFimages.com

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