Saturday night saw the coming together of two Manchester institutions. Punk Funkster icons ‘A Certain Ratio’ played the epitome of the intimate gig venue ‘The Band on the Wall’. It was opening weekend at the BOTW after 4 years of darkness whilst it underwent redevelopment,with combined funds from the Arts Council England and the Heritage Lottery Fund as part of a £4 million project. The place has lost none of its character but has acquired 21st century cool which it effortlessly combines with the heritage that hosted 30s swing bands through to 70s punk. Fitting enough that one of the 70s draws should be back for the unveiling.
It would be insufficient to say that ACR rolled back the years – in a sense they did but there is more to it than that. The music really has stood the test of time. The 2008 release ‘Mind Made Up’ fell easily into place alongside classics that were first played a quarter of a century before; and we had them all – Mickey Way, Flight and the Ratio take on Joy Division’s ‘Heart and Soul’. Listening again this music really is still contemporary even though unlike their US prodigies ‘LCD Soundsystem’, ACR really were there.
The rythym combination of Jeremy Kerr on Bass and Don Johnson on drums is a sight and sound to behold, but when Martin Moscrop slips onto the drum stool and Johnson straps on his bass for ‘Knife Slits Waters’ we see a band who if you cut them have the funk running all the way through. The encore was gloriously free from surprises (Shack up and Si Firmir O Grido). It was a privilege to see ACR live again and a joy to to do so at the greatest little venue reinstalled as the beating heart of Manchester’s live music scene.