Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry: Arts Club, Liverpool

Lee Scratch Perry

Lee Scratch Perry

Lee ‘Scratch Perry’, the High Priest of reggae and dub graced the stage with pomp and ceremony, Getintothis’ Mark Rowley was there to enjoy a beautifully uplifting spirit.

True legends are few and far between.

Maverick reggae pioneer and dub innovator, Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry has a career spanning 6 decades. During this time he has sung, produced and collaborated with countless names in music across many different styles.

He has worked with acts as diverse as Bob Marley and Junior Murvin through to The Beastie Boys and The Slits’ Ari Up. It was through Perry’s initial introductions that Bob Marley And The Wailers got together.

Tonight Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry took to the stage as an old, dapper but fragile-looking octogenarian, wheeling on his flight case as if just calling in for a quick show. He was draped in a large white scarf that had been thrown towards him at the start of the set.

In no time at all though, he felt the rhythm and danced his groove. And what he may have lacked in energy, he more than made up for with genial, beaming charisma.

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He covered many of his best known tunes, including Happy Birthday, Roast Fish And Cornbread and a cover of the Bob Marley favourite, Sun Is Shining. True to form, there were plenty of ramblings between songs, but as a self-professed madman, he said it all with an infectious smile, and had everyone smiling back in his direction.

Two-thirds of the way into his set, Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry let everyone know he loves all kinds of different music. He loves funk, a good old yardy party, and he used to love the punk! Quite a few of us in the pit (of a certain age) were already aware of this and the cheers rose up in acknowledgement.

After all, this grand man produced the best song (Complete Control) by the world’s greatest rock ‘n’ roll band ever (The Clash). Legendary status granted, without further question!

During Zion’s Blood, a party broke out as he was passed the obligatory reefer which was then lit up, whilst singing the line, ‘African blood is flowing through my veins’.

Many more were lit up also, as clouds of smoke billowed through the air. A short coughing fit followed, with the ad-lib line thrown in, ‘but cigarette is a killer’, to the amusement of just about everyone in the hall.

A fantastic version of Exodus (the Bob Marley And The Wailers classic song) closed the set and showcased the accomplished musicianship of Perry‘s backing band, The Upsetters; before returning for an encore, playing a medley which included the brilliant, I Am A Mad Man.

And that was it … A memorable evening’s show from an eccentric, roots-rock-rebel! Let’s hope we can see Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry wheeling his trolley back our way again in another couple of years from now.


Images by Getintothis’ Tom Adam