Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry at Band on the Wall, Manchester
It’s a rare treat to catch someone who is a living legend on the reggae and dub scene in rainy Manchester but last Friday saw the phenomenal producer, singer and songwriter Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry play a sell-out gig at the first-rate Band on the Wall music venue in the edgy Northern Quarter of the City, and what an awesome night it proved to be.
Playing with the latest version of the ‘Upsetters’ or rather the ‘Uplifters’ as they described themselves, Perry, who turns 82 this month, is still obviously enjoying entertaining his many fans with a unique take on well-known and improvised reggae and dub and by the time he came on stage, the audience had already been warmed up nicely by DJ Mikey Don who had set the scene with rare Jamaican grooves, with a much appreciated emphasis on the one and only King Tubby. The emergence of Perry’s band followed by Perry himself, created quite a stir to say the least as the man is a reggae icon with his distinctive style – he really does have a uniquely creative and ethereal persona in the flesh. Dressed in an eclectic mix of bright colours with jewels and trinkets everywhere, including a crystal pyramid on his head, Perry commands attention and he justifiably gets it. The band in contrast looked quite underdressed. Their musicianship however, like his, was a revelation.
Born in Jamaica and associated with developing early dub alongside his work in more mainstream rocksteady, ska, jungle and of course, reggae, Perry built up a reputation as a pioneer, inventor and innovator of studio techniques such as remixing and sampling and his eccentric character and energetic work as a producer, put him in the vanguard of music development which would reverberate and have influence in the years to come even with genres such as hip hop and grime. This will undoubtedly account for why he is still an artist people very much want to see with a lot of young followers at the gig as well as those who remember him from his ska and reggae roots.
With a repertoire which spans over six decades and a discography which is seismic, Perry had plenty of material to choose from and to delight the audience with, not just his own music either because his prolific work as a producer for Bob Marley & the Wailers, Junior Murvin and many other notable artists of that genre, has given him access to classics such as Exodus, Sun is Shining, Punky Reggae Party and more, alongside his own material such as Chase The Devil and Super Ape, all of which he performed on the night. Perry is clearly a master of working the songs to suit his style and his mood and Friday was no different as the octogenarian delivered the set with tangible ease and palpable pleasure whilst adopting his trademark interactive style of engaging both the band and the crowd with his innovative stage presence and vocal musings.
To see Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry is an experience not to be forgotten and one has to ask how much longer he will continue to tour but whilst he’s still in the groove, it would be a travesty to miss him on this 2018 set of dates.