Lee 'Scratch' Perry

Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry


“Sometimes I pretend to be normal but it gets boring so I go back to being me”. The statement sums up the legendary Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry’s vital philosophy. He’ll be 80 years old the day after tomorrow, but as he has never stopped having fun, he’s not old at all. He won’t be. Never mind the wrinkly skin. It’s just wisely toasted by Kingston’s sun. He’s celebrating his own and everyone else’s birthday tonight, at Manchester’s Band On The Wall.

Neil Fraser, AKA Mad Professor, is in charge of getting the party started and he has gathered a good crowd by the time I get to the room. He invites us to live in harmony and he tailors a suitable soundtrack for the occasion. He even dedicates a song to Donald Trump (who needs more than him to live a little bit more in harmony?) Stunning voices cry ‘Africa’ in a loop of mesmerising echoes. The quality of the sound is just flawless. Massive, yet it feels like a harmless caress.

Mostly old school supporters and also some kids gently swing, out of phase. Shake out all those nasty ghosts and pests! If there’s something missing on this stage, it is the weed fog –but Mr. Perry will take care of that soon afterwards…

The Upsetter’s outstanding band treats us with a mood building instrumental piece. The crowd goes wild when he smoothly enters the stage. The immortal ‘Apeman’ greets the enthusiastic audience and moves his arms in a hello-wave that we all obediently imitate. He seems the most eccentric shaman ever. He has customized even his mic, with feathers and who knows what else. Out-of-this world tinsmith outfit that he complements with a ridiculously showy cap. This man is great fun, but he must be a nightmare at any airport control.

He explains his particular view on the ‘Creation’. Tribal. Killer bass. His at times rather mumbled singing is insanely amplified with an other-worldly reverb that makes the whole thing quite funny. Plus, a hilarious introduction for ‘Happy Birthday’. Peace and love and Happy Birthday to everyone. There’s plenty of room for romance as well. “I love you, and you love me…” Then some reality bites: “Ego is stupid”… and we happily dance to that.

Improvise or die.

He rambles along the stage as if he owns the world, yet there’s no sign of arrogance nor vanity. Ego kills, remember?

Some fans raise their lighters on. Nostalgia.

There he goes again, carefree and free, the living dub legacy, the spiritual father of Bob Marley and many, many more. “Who are you? Who am I?” Good question. In case we need some ‘inspiration’, he lights a happiness cigarette and he receives a big applause in response. This man is here tonight to save our souls, don’t you see? He spreads love and shares his rolling good vibes. A bunch of lucky guys smoke from the peace pipe.

As the show moves forward, his primal screams get louder, throatier. Another crazy tune for the “crazy people”. Another joint. A fantastic melody on the keyboard invites us to embrace the magic (‘All Things Are Possible’). Tempo changes, probably not to get too stoned. The ‘Mad Man’ once had the revelation that he was the music, not the alcohol, not even marijuana. The muse fuel is within.

 “Can you feel the magic?” he wants to make sure, before he performs ‘Magic Touch’. It is followed by a superb ‘Police and Thieves’, which he wrote along with Junior Murvin in 1976, before The Clash turned it into a smash hit.

Besides the live shows, prolific and prophetic Mr. Perry has been quite busy at the studio as well. He releases/collaborates/flavours at least one album every year since he published his first album The Upsetter back in 1969. The Super Ape Strikes Again, with the like-minded Pura Vida band, is his latest work.

A little bit of ska to shake some action. The crowd’s kind invasion of the stage tells that this memorable show is about to end. As I walk home peacefully, I come to a decision: I don’t need impossible games of yoga anymore. I just need ‘The Upsetter’. Happy Birthday Forever!

Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry  Official | Facebook | Twitter

Amaia Santana

Good karma brought me here to Manchester, my second home, where you can stay healthy (despite the weather) and young forever, as you can breathe live music in every corner of the city. I do believe in the healing power of music (rock is my life vest) and I'd be so glad to share my passion with you rockers of the world!