It had been three years since ACRs last London gig. That was the first surprise of the night. After discovering the funky post-punk Factory Mancunians over twenty years ago, I had last heard of them through the grapevine back in the heady days of Madchester rave-ons when stable-mates The Happy Mondays were making the great leap forward from the shadows of Joy Division and New Order to become a leading voice of a new Manchester scene.
Tonight the scene was set for ACR to play in front of a sardine-packed attentive crowd who were there to let each other know they had always loved this most underrated of post-1977 bands. Finding their way onto the stage around 12.30am, after a sterling DJ set from the lone swordsmen himself, Andrew Weatherall. The line-up hasnt changed since the mid-eighties and includes three original-ish members in Martin Moscrop (guitar & trumpet), Jez (bass & vocals) and the funky drumming of Donald Johnson.
They were joined by sax, keyboards, samples and a female vocalist for live favourites such as Shack Up, Wild Party and a jazz interlude! The set began in a shaky manner with bass and drums more colliding than performing a tight rhythm section with which to build on. But with nerves overcome, the band played on. All the favourites appeared to be included as the appreciative, cramped and sweaty thirty-somethings strut their funky stuff to Do The Du, Flight, and finally an encore of the irrepressible Si Fermi O Grido.
Before entering the club's three rooms, featuring Sandoz (Richard H. Kirk) and a team of djs that included the aforementioned Weatherall and the father of Two-Tone Jerry Dammers, I was in two minds whether I was simply trying to revisit my youth or I was going to witness an ageless, timeless group that after all these years still interested me more so than their fellow ex-Factory team mates. ACR were well on form, even if a slight middle-aged spread had calmed Jezs football outbursts and interactive crowd participation between songs. This was worth the wait. And for all those people who think three fat old blokes called New Order are still banging it out and leading the post-Factory charge, then go see ACR.