Bringing their UK tour to an end to promote their recently released studio album ‘1982’, the band performed new tracks for the first time live with founding members Jez Kerr (vocals, bass, percussion), Martin Moscrop (guitar, trumpet, drums, percussion) and Donald Johnson (drums, bass, percussion) joined by Matt Steele (keyboards), with new singer Ellen Beth Abdi (vocals, percussion) and additional bass and guitar player Viv, who was helping out Kerr following his health issues.

They began early with the new material, playing title track ‘1982’ with the running train of its rhythm section. They were then joined onstage by Abdi – who has recorded for the first time with them on the new release – for ‘Get A Grip’ from their previous studio album, ‘ACR Loco’; the recorded version of which features Maria Uzor of Sink Ya Teeth. After classic debut album funky, traffic jam track, ‘Do The Du’, which saw Kerr on bass, they also performed from their more recent releases with the frequency bending ‘Emperor Machine’ from 2021 EP, ‘ACR:EPC’.

Kerr tributed ‘Flight’ to the recently passed Mark Stewart of The Pop Group, who attended the band’s shows and was an inspiration to them, then playing consecutively three more new tracks from the latest album: the exotic feel of ‘Afro Dizzy’ smoothly sung solely by Abdi; the rhythmic simplicity of ‘SAMO’ typical of their 1989 period, sang by Kerr and backed by Abdi; and the infectious ‘Constant Curve’ sung by Abdi, the latter two also echoing the ringing guitar of ‘Shack Up’. The band returned to their last album with dance track ‘Yo Yo Gi’; performed once before on their last tour, however, with ACR always reinventing, this rendition differed with its drone Human League-like keyboard.

Kerr dedicated ‘Won’t Stop Loving You’ to the late Denise Johnson, their previous backing vocalist of 30 years, then performing a version of ‘Good Together’ from ‘acr:mcr’, with alternating vocals from Kerr and Abdi and Moscrop’s strained guitar flashes, then overtaken by Steele’s warping keyboard providing an unbelievable live mix for the instrumental latter part of the track before bubbling away. With ACR’s ever-evolving restyling of live performance, incorporation of young blood into their venture and Abdi’s gift of unlocking a new phase of the band post-Denise Johnson, this was the best live show of the year so far and one of their overall best in recent years.

29/04/23: A Certain Ratio @ The Garage, London.

Photos © E. Gabriel Edvy/Blackswitch Labs.

© Ayisha Khan.