Lee “Scratch” Perry: Godfather of dub shows no signs of slowing
With a career spanning 60 years, Lee “Scratch” Perry’s influence on the music world is undeniable. As well as a massive catalogue of his own music, he has worked with some of the most prolific artists of the century, from Bob Marley to the Beastie Boys. Now the godfather of dub has brought his live show to Band on the Wall and, at the age of 81, shows little sign of slowing down.
It was impossible not to be mesmerised by his entrance, as he comes on dressed like some kind of Jamaican spaceman presenting a children’s morning TV show. He wore a brilliant space print coat covered in moons and stars and a hat adorned with mirrors, with his signature red beard completing the look. His eccentric appearance set a tone of unserious and non-judgemental fun for the evening, which was certainly felt as the crowd waved and clapped along with Perry from start to finish.
The performance was propelled forward by the exceptional skill of Perry’s band, whose effortlessly tight performance kept the crowd hooked on every beat. The solid rhythm section was nicely complimented by the impressive virtuosity of the guitarist, and the stabbing horns of the keyboard. Perry oscillated between dub classics and more obscure offerings, with a highlight being the various long jam versions of Scratch hits like ‘Disco Devil’. The band led the crowd into a trance with mind-bending instrumentals stretching out and shifting from reggae to funk to jungle.
At times the spell would be broken by intervals of stumbling and mumbling from Perry. His attempts at improv were mostly baffling, with an extended, fairly nonsensical monologue about a spliff and repeated attempts to make up words which rhyme with Manchester. Nevertheless, these confused rants and ramblings added to Perry’s eccentric stage presence, and I doubt most fans were interrogating what he was saying too closely.
Despite the multiple transformations of Perry as a musician throughout his life, his unique and innovative style is instantly recognisable. His performance was a solid tribute to his decades of hard work, and the foundations he has laid for countless artists. It is a real pleasure to see a legend like Lee “Scratch” Perry at such a late stage in his career, and I feel lucky that he is still putting so much energy into his shows. I think it was this sense of appreciation among the whole crowd that was most evident throughout the evening.