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Lee Perry in Ireland

Lee Perry in Ireland

Lee Perry in Ireland

By on - Photos by Gerard McMahon - Comment

Lee Perry just offered 4 sell-out shows in Ireland.

Much of what is good about the genre called ‘reggae’ can be associated with the genius that is Grammy winner Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry (LSP). From his seismic influence on what many adjudge the best of Bob Marley and his Wailers, to the creative cultivation of the Congos, Max Romeo, Junior Byles, Junior Murvin, the Heptones and subsequent collaborations with a host of luminaries, including the Beastie Boys, George Clinton, Keith Richards and the Orb, Perry’s mark in music and dub is indelible. For some, his eccentricity is as much his hallmark as is his history. And it’s no surprise that Rolling Stone magazine should rank him in their ‘100 Greatest Artists of All Time’.

Lee Perry

Prior to taking the stage recently, the living legend that is Perry was asked by the promoters how he would like to be introduced. With a withering stare he responded that he ‘needed no introduction’. How right he is. Reputedly reformed via an abstinence from alcohol, meat and marijuana, Perry’s propensity to stand such assumptions on their head reflects an unpredictability serving to make time in the company of this musical genius pure pleasure. 

LSP recently completed his annual pilgrimage to Ireland, offering 4 sell-out shows in Dublin, Cork, Limerick and Galway. He arrived smiling and in good form. He also left his audiences smiling and in very good form. Having just finalised the American leg of his tour, this remarkable 82 year old was now in the throes of a European odyssey of 40 dates. And what’s more, the show’s duration has been extended to accommodate some old musical favourites. 

Accompanying Perry on the strength of his United Reggae commission, the author enjoyed unimpeded access to the artist for the tour’s duration. Also serving as the musician’s chauffeur for cross-country treks to the various venues, the verdict is that not alone is Perry a musical maestro, he is also the perfect passenger. Sitting silently in the back seat, Perry devotes hours on his laptop to experimentation and creation with rhyming wordslyrics.

Without a ‘pip’ or a ‘squeak’ or any demand for the duration of his lengthy city-to-city journeys, Perry was a pleasure to work with. This is an assessment that is frequently endorsed by many that have worked with him (save for the notable exception of Bunny Wailer, with whom there is some residual ill feeling with a long history).

Lee Perry

The show set - of around one and half hour’s duration – had some variation on each night, reflecting Perry’s avoidance of boredom and the band’s flexibility and capability of rising to any occasion. Heating the metal cross and the other trinkets that adorn his personal microphone before taking the stage, Perry then launches into almost 20 standard set staples that include I Am An Apeman, Happy Birthday, Roast Fish and Cornbread, Max Romeo’s Chase The DevilIron Shirt the Marley seeped Sun Is Shining, Jah Live, Punky Reggae Party and Crazy Baldhead (with an extended blues input), as Exodus brings the show to a close.

Of course these familiar tracks were frequently interspersed, as the inimitable Perry did some of his thinking out loud: ‘I want my champagne’, ‘Do you like my boots?’, ‘Say no to cocaine’, ‘It’s a fantastic show’, allied to a host of expletives of a scatological and misogynistic variety, that would have left other mere mortals in some jeopardy with their audience. But not Perry

Travelling separately to the shows were long-time Upsetter and band leader cum drummer Sinclair Seales, with Clive ‘Flash’ Gordon newly introduced on bass guitar, as Francois Cuffy’s lead guitar returned to the mix for the Irish leg of the tour. The Upsetters’ synthesiserkeyboards are now being tinkled by the versatile Greg Assing -    who has compiled a sizeable musical curriculum vitae that spans Aswad membership to running Billy Ocean’s studios in Grenada.

Despite his years, the long journeys and the fatigue that follows a live show, Perry made himself available to all comers. Post-show antics often matched showtime, as Perry held court until the early hours of the morning. LSP was often the last man to leave the premises! Let’s hope his health holds, enabling his musical monuments and meanderings to persist far into the future.

Lee Perry

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