Like a patchwork wizard descending from on high, Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry (sort of) comes home. The scene of almost Biblical floods a few months ago, the Lake District town of Kendal could do with some healing, and who better than the self-proclaimed “miracle man” and godfather of dub to bring a little sunshine after the rain. Born 79 years and 362 days previous in Kendal, Jamaica there might even have been some divine intervention at play.
Despite advance warnings, Perry is on his best behaviour – apart from a few cheeky puffs which have security anxious, but not enough to be the one wrestling an extra-terrestrial OAP. His new documentary, Visions of Paradise, gives more of an insight into his genre-making decades-long career, but tonight it’s really just about the music – and his manifesto of cosmic blessing and justice.
Unafraid to lead with the big guns, he kicks off with ‘Super Ape’, constantly working the front row and generating real warmth and affection. There is no Babylon in the room; this is a terrifically happy affair – although Perry is deadly serious, with regular curse outs for the police, soldiers and “baby killers”. Even Pope Francis gets a diss but his message is straightforward: if people were nicer, the world would be a better place.
The bulletproof ‘I Chase The Devil’ (“I’m gonna put on an iron shirt”) and chirpy ‘Inspector Gadget’ allow warm-up man Mad Professor to ramp up the effects from the desk, the super-tight rhythm section securing the groove as things get increasingly wilder. What looks like the final number is really just a pee break and Perry returns for extended run throughs of ‘Police and Thieves’ and ‘Exodus’ that make a mockery of the advertised curfew.
Next time the water rises, look to Mr Lee Perry for salvation. Glue some stuff to a cap, bling up your mic and see what happens. This ain’t no time to keep monkeying around.