I’ve Been Looking For A Certain Ratio

So said Brian Eno, providing Manchester’s most enduring group with a name. I’ve seen them play live three Decembers running now, in a basement in Blackburn last year and at a sparsely attended show at the university the year before. Saturday night’s gig at The Ritz is close to full, a sign that being on a big label (Mute) brings promotion and rewards. The core members of ACR have been playing together now for nearly 40 years so it’s no surprise that they as tight as can be. It’s also good that having seen them play shows in fairly close succession, that they are still changing the arrangements of the songs, extending them and mucking about with outros and middle parts. Singer/bassist Jez is suffering from sciatica, having to sit down at times, but there are no half measures. During the encore he dedicates the gig to the memory of Duncan O’Brien, technician and friend to the group who died this year. On the balcony teenage daughters of the band dance and take photos. On the floor it’s mainly the 40 plus crowd. In the toilets someone says ‘for a moment there, I thought I was back in Hacienda’.

In looks and sound I’ve often thought that ACR’s short back and sides haircuts and clipped funk could have made them the perfect house band for a club in Weimar Berlin. Arriving on stage to  the ACR:MCR intro tape, they kick off with the early stuff, drawing us in with taut basslines and staccato guitar parts and Donald Johnson’s mesmeric drumming. Just when it begins to feel like it might be little too austere, just a tad too ’81, they turn the gig on a sixpence and hit us with 3 slices of late 80s dance-pop; 27 Forever, Won’t Stop Loving You and Good Together. Suddenly the greying but up for it Mancunian crowd are dancing with Denise’s singing front and centre. Then we get Be What You Wanna Be and Shack Up, two pieces of Manchester music as essential as anything anyone else has recorded in the last 40 years. The final song is as it always is- Don and Martin Moscrop swap places, Martin on the drums and Don slapping fuck out of a bass guitar, with everyone else on cowbells, whistles and bongos. They tour next year, another sign that Mute’s money has brought them some freedom. The re-issued album campaign is already underway.  I have a friend, who I reconnected with a year ago, who made me a compilation tape back in late 1986 or early 1987. On it was this song, one that I’ve been listening to now for 30 years. Hearing the stepped, jerky funk of Do The Du live in 2017 is just as good as hearing it on a C90 was then (thanks for that Darren). Do The Du was originally released on The Graveyard And The Ballroom, a Factory Records cassette from 1980.

Do The Du

This is the one that got everyone singing along on Saturday night. We can argue about whether the original version (here) or the Bernard Sumner remix is the best, but this is the version they’ve been playing live.

‘When you’re sick and tired
Of everybody lying to you
You just want to walk away
Walk right into better days’

The Big E