Still the music world's last great witchdoctor...
We are, of course, half expecting it to be a farce, one last glimpse of an ageing icon of eccentricity indulging us in an incoherent stream-of-conscious and some far-out bass wobbles. Is Mad Professor in the house? Because we hear he’s the man who holds the whole show together.
Shame on us doubters, though. This is Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry we’re talking about: The Upsetter, creator and destroyer of the Black Ark legacy, a personality of biblical proportions, a dub super-hero, producer supreme and a man with a reputation for drinking gasoline and blackcurrant and walking the streets of Kingston in a backwards stylee. He may be 64 years old, but he hasn’t lost that bewitching touch. Draped in all manner of plastic trinkets, Rastafarian paraphernalia and the infamous mirrored hat, all five feet four inches of Scratch boogies up and down the stage, collecting spliff after spliff from his utterly baked assemblage of worshippers. In return, he shakes hands, tells us he loves us forever and even allows some fans stroke his fuzzy grey bonce.
He sings ‘Get Ready For Lee’, gearing up the crowd for what will be an onslaught of kaleidoscopic madness. The bass booms, the drums rattle through a spooked-out echo chamber and Lee holds court, half- jester, half-king, 100% guru. It’s often hard to decipher much what he’s singing/chanting, although the obligatory legalise cannabis speech is in there somewhere. Otherwise, it’s simply a mass, a pilgrimage, a brilliantly cartoonish blitz of verbal shamanism. ‘Inspector Gadget’ is a celebration of psychedelic wizardry and ‘War In Babylon’ is fuelled with righteous Rasta fury.
But even if the scaled down sound is a far-cry from Scratch‘s monumental catalogue of mystic wax, he carries the show on his own unhinged charisma alone. After a good half an hour of incensed pleas for an encore, it become apparent that Scratch has already zoomed off to a different galaxy, perhaps to consume more of that extra-terrestrial strength that has kept him going all these years. But he proved one thing tonight: he is still the music world’s last great witchdoctor, and Vicar St was truly upset.