With almost six decades of music to choose from, Brian Sayle catches the reggae legend on his return visit to Liverpool. 

Born in 1936, Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry was highly influential in the development and acceptance of reggae and dub music, not just in Jamaica but he helped take the uplifting and spiritual music of reggae globally, tonight he was bringing it back to Liverpool.

He is unique, a real one off, he gets away with wearing clothes that nobody else would be brave enough to wear. Tonight as ever wearing a baseball cap that looked a ton weight with its mirrors and a large Tutankhamun badge, shoes that look like something from a scrap yard and adorned in a jacket covered in various astronomical symbols.

With a career dating back to the 1960s, there really can’t be too many artists still touring who were born before World War II.

Prior to the main man, Richie Vegas of Beaten Tracks played some tunes for a hour as the crowd slowly dripped in.

Perry’s band took to the stage with an instrumental track, before the bandleader explains that whilst the band, though traditionally known as The Upsetters, will tonight be known as The Uplifters. During their second song, from the back of the stage, with his bright red sideburns, pulling a blue suitcase and draped in a white towel, Scratch took to the stage.

With around 60 years’ worth of music to choose from and a similar number of albums to his name, plus all the music he produced, compiling a set list must be a difficult task for Perry.

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He sprinkled a few classics throughout the set, including Have Some Mercy and Zions Blood from Super Ape, along with Happy Birthday and Roast Fish and Cornbread from his 1978 LP Roast Fish Collie Weed and Corn Bread.

In between the songs he enjoyed having a great rapport with crowd, talking about his faith and, in the highlight of the evening for some, lit a large spliff. It did lead to a coughing fit but fair play to him!

Working from one of the world’s most influential music studios, Black Ark Studios in Kingston, Mr Perry along with his contemporaries brought another dimension to popular music. The studio might have burned down in 1979 but its legacy lives on for sure, ‘Scratch’ Perry knows his legendary place in popular music is right at the top, but he also seems to not take himself too serious and these days and just wants to have some fun without a care in the world. You can’t say he hasn’t earned it.

Mashing up some of the songs and generally messing about, singing “Iron Boots – Iron Shirt” on repeat during Chase The Devil rather than the actual lyrics, playing around on a cover of The Liquidator and ending with Exodus by The Wailers before grabbing his blue suitcase and heading for the exit.

He might be 83, but there is no doubt that he will doing this for many years to come, although after the spliff prank maybe not at the Arts Club.

Pictures by Graham Smillie