Lee "Scratch" Perry at Cedar Cultural Center, 5/23/12

Lee "Scratch" Perry
Cedar Cultural Center
Wednesday, May 24, 2012

View a slideshow from the concert here.

On a warm and rainy evening, the reggae minions of the Twin Cities filled up the Cedar Cultural Center to greet and groove along to a musical legend, Lee "Scratch" Perry for a sold-out show.

While local DJ Verb X most properly got things to a simmer with some classic reggae tunes it was DJ and producer Emch AKA Subatomic Sound System that eventually took to the stage and brought the bass and sound effects to a boil. Often chiming in with some reggae and dub history factoids, laying down some killer melodica parts as somewhat a master of ceremony for the evening, Emch warmed up the damp crowd as he eventually introduced the star of the night, the disco devil himself, Lee Perry.

Sporting a baseball hat covered in silver discs and crystal bobbles, silk pants and enough jewelry to make Mr. T pity the fool, Perry sauntered about the stage laying down a mixture of observations, scat and more than likely some sort of intergalactic alien prose for a full hour plus set.

With Emch mixing the tracks and joined by a live bass player, Perry was also accompanied by Bob Marley and Skatalites alum Larry McDonald on congas who provided a rhythmic color to the overall sound. The lack of a live band didn't seem to disappoint the audience as they were overjoyed to see Lee Perry who just turned 76 years old (!) this year.

As the rest of the night would go Perry worked the stage and the crowd in a stream of conscience fashion which could be best described as a brand of Avant Garde reggae, perhaps the latest style of the music he's invented. The random nature and the strangeness of his words amused as much as confounded the audience.

Lee "Scratch" Perry at Cedar Cultural Center, 5/23/12
Photo by Steve Cohen

Occasionally stopping on certain ideas he would repeat words, bending them each time that lead to more combinations of strung together nursery rhymes of sorts, "Scratch, Scratch, Scratch my nose, scratch my toes, scratch my head, scratch the Dead."

While his classic productions like "Chase the Devil", "One Drop" and "Super Ape" blasted from the speakers Perry would pounce around the stage and arbitrarily trigger sound effects of ducks, monkeys, telephones and car crashes that accented the music giving it a further weird effect. At a couple points in the night he would grab a kid from the crowd and bring him on stage, "We must love the children. The children we love. Bless the children and bless god." to which the audience roared.

It's hard to come down on the man who has been consistently celebrated for his oddball characteristics for 5 decades now. With this type of performance it is more about the spirit of his being and that fact he's persevered for as long as he has and stayed active. In the end it is what it is, you can't expect the level of musicality or grand wisdom to spew forth the way it did with Perry in his prime. In all we are blessed by the enormous body of work the man has given us and it was with great pleasure and respect that we were able to share the time together as those in attendance basked in his presence.

Critic's Bias: As a lover of strange music and having seen the man a few times in the past I knew it would be a mixed bag of a performance but was thankful none the less for the opportunity.

The Crowd: The faithful Twin Cities ska and reggae scene. Lots of noodle dancers and a pleasant haze in the room made for good energy at the Cedar.

Overheard in the Crowd: "What did he just say about Superman, Jesus Christ and pussy in that last song?!"

Random Notebook Dump: Twin Cities reggae scene is a strong and loyal one.

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