Live Review: Lee Scratch Perry

Lee “Scratch” Perry is a man vitally important in the grand scheme of modern music, having worked with iconic 2ost century figures like Bob Marley and being instrumental in the development of modern bass music– and this Thursday he was playing Fibbers. The same place you may well have threw up in, or enjoyed many a mediocre club night. It is often said you should never meet your idols, but in this case was it true? With the tickets priced at over £21 pounds, the bar was set high.

When I walked into Fibbers I was greeted by an eclectic audience. With enough dreadlocks, goatees, silly hats to make Humans of York looks like squares, and distinct smell of “that thing that is popular in Jamaica” was resonant in the air. It was clear that Perry had won half the battle before a single note was played. Fibbers Irie Vibes Sound system provided an adequate opening, their bouncy brand of dub wetting the appetites of the audience for what was to come. When members of the backing group “The Upsetters” took to the stage, they were greeted with a rapturous response, and they handled the crowd with great charisma. They opened us up with an instrumental number and the quality of their musicianship was obvious from the get go. The reverb soaked bass lines punctuated the belly, the drummer provided tight yet tricky drumbeats, and the guitarist providing intricate and soulful playing at times reminiscent of the great Carlos Santana.

When Lee entered the stage he made a huge impression. With crowd cheering and moving their heads to get a better look. A diminutive figure of a man, with with his 77 years being readily apparent, clothed in jewels bright colors and large chains, he looks part hobo part mad messiah. His presence was unique and undeniable, however if wondered round the streets of York too long he may have got a few offers of spare change. The show opened slowly, yet he worked the audience well, with cries for peace and love being more life affirming than clichéd. The mood was infectious and before long people were bobbing there heads and swaying naturally too the rhythm the music. Perhaps due the sound system, his extremely pronounced Jamaican accent and his advanced years, his voice was at times hard to discern.  For large parts of the show he could well having been singing about his love of sausage rolls and the audience would have been none the wiser. Particular set highlights included “I am the Upsetter” and “Having a Party”.

If only by sheer dint of spirit alone, it was good performance, the combination of bands fine musicianship and Perry’s oddball charisma would win over even those who weren’t originally fans of this sort of thing, and I left the venue strangely uplifted.