INTERVIEWS, REVIEWS & RELATED ARTICLES
Sydney Morning Herald JUNE 13, 2009 - by George Palathingal
LAID-BACK LEGEND IN GOLD BOOTS IN OVERSHADOWED BY HIS BAND
Lee 'Scratch' Perry: Sydney Opera House / June 11, 2009
He was playing reggae before the term had even been coined, and can lay a solid claim to helping birth dub. He has worked with artists from Bob Marley to The Beastie Boys via The Clash.
He's seventy-three and looks ridiculous - with gold boots, fluoro parka, beard dyed crimson and hat covered in badges, he dresses like some alien Rasta pearly king. Yet everyone still thinks Lee 'Scratch' Perry is the bee's knees. His fellow producer extraordinaire, Brian Eno, certainly does, having got Perry to play this show for his Luminous festival, as does the room full of fans who cheer Perry's every move. But putting aside the artist's important, influential past, is he still worth seeing live?
Well, kind of. The evening's enjoyment really comes down to his terrific live band. In about three minutes of instrumental dub before Perry even joins them, the five-piece offers more variety than there is in the otherwise likeable support act Sine's entire set.
Then, after you've paid your respects and gasped at Perry's stamina - he's hardly Mick Jagger but the septuagenarian still ambles around the stage for a good two hours - you might notice it's the band's thick basslines, snareless beats and hissing high hats that provide the pleasure, and not the barely comprehensible, sweet gent rambling on in front of them.
The more laid-back grooves are so languid you could float in them while the upbeat rhythms are tightly wound and beautifully controlled, their tension sustained to the last note for maximum effect. Pulsating dub at both these tempos dominates the set, with the occasional touch of sprightly reggae thrown in.
Perry may have created these sounds but he doesn't add much on the night. Still, as music lovers probably thought back in his creative heyday: it does warm the heart to know he's around, and as loveably eccentric as ever.