The Georgian Theatre Stockton has seen many renowned and acclaimed Artists tread the boards onstage over the years at this, the oldest surviving Georgian theatre in the country.
It was however a rare treat for the patriots of the George as it is affectionately known, to have a band of such high calibre and legendary status as that of Manchester stalwarts ‘A Certain Ratio’ perform to an eager audience on Friday night.
Celebrating a whopping forty years having crafted their unique sound, the band once described as ‘having all the energy of Joy Division but with better clothes..’ are nearing the end of the UK leg of their current tour.
Since emerging from a seven year hiatus, if anyone had imagined ACR had delivered all they had to offer, then they ought to know better. This is a band who still know how to ratchet it up. Keeping alive the party vibe they were originally renowned for, the crowd were treated to a collection of classic funk disco from the back catalogue mixed in with a few surprises to boot!
The opening tracks performed set the pace for what was to be a memorable night, with blistering percussion, signature basslines and an air of expectancy.
As one of the first Artists to sign with Factory records ACR have influenced everybody from ‘Red Hot Chili Peppers’ to ‘Happy Mondays’. This was much in evidence throughout most of the night.
However it wasn’t until the opening intro for ‘Forced Laugh’ that we really got to experience the full potency of Jez Kerr’s deep bass combined with the expert brass section of Martin Moscrop on trumpet, and Tony Quigley on saxophone. The collaborative effect truly demonstrated the incredible and diverse range that exist within the scope of ACR’s music.
The soulful vocals of Denise Johnson effortlessly eased us into a seamless funky rhythm that naturally gave way to everybody on the floor finding their groove.
Tracks like ‘The Fox’ were reminiscent of the more sombre and atmospheric era of factory and vocally at least, bear a striking resemblance to legendary label mates Joy Division.
Upping the tempo the later ACR period from the 90’s was delivered in full on euphoric club style with ’27 forever’ proving to be a high point in the night showcasing how well Jez and Denise’s vocal mix captured the mood and spirit of that time.
It was the cover of the 1975 Banbarra track ‘Shack Up’ that provided a humorous but lively all bells and whistles grand finale to the closing set.
Repetitive guitar riffs and funky percussion maintained the upbeat vibe, whilst Donald Johnson’s superb and steadfast bassy drums gave an added depth to this classic track.
The audience lapping up the opportunity to experience such a prolific band still at the top of their game demonstrated their appreciation with much whooping and cheering.
It was the closing set however that was to provide the ultimate highlight as even keyboard player Matt Steele joined his fellow bandmates front of stage for a mega whistles, cowbell and drums extravaganza in a riotous cacophony of sound.
Celebrating four decades of having contributed some of the most incredible and distinctive styles in the history of contemporary music subculture, ‘A Certain Ratio’ deserve to take their rightful place as one of the greatest bands ever to emerge onto the British music scene in the last 40 years.
Continuing with their output, the band are set to return to the studio following the end of the current tour, and to date have already recorded some new material for the next album.
You can catch ‘A Certain Ratio’ on the final date of the UK leg of their tour at Subterania London on December 11th 2019.
A rare opportunity to witness the true pioneers of Punk Funk demonstrate the lost art of individuality, and music & creative genius.