Review, Photos & Videos: Lee Scratch Perry & E.R.M. in Hamburg 2/7/2013
02/09/2013 by Gardy Stein
Lee Scratch Perry & E.R.M. in Hamburg, Germany @ Knust 2/7/2013
Opener: Illbilly HiTec
► PHOTO GALLERY
Generally, a release-party is supposed to present and promote the album being released. When talking about Lee "Scratch" Perry, however, the word 'generally' is misplaced: this evening was all about one of the most dazzling and controversial figures in Reggae history! His new album Humanicity, though available on the merch stand and content of the set-list, was not the primary focus of this Thursday night at KNUST (Hamburg). But first things first…
Opening act iLLBiLLY HiTEC (who were on a release-mission as well, presenting their first album Reggaetronics) entered the stage at 9pm. The unusual combination of Alex on (live!) drums, Thomas on the controls and frontman Longfingah on the mic delivered what in retrospective was a striking contrast to their successors. Fast and cleverly arranged dancehall tracks interlocked with Longfingahs chameleonic vocal skills and revived memories of original soundsystem culture. When their show was over after about 45 minutes, a mood of "Let the good times roll!" hovered above the place.
It was another 45 minutes until stage preparations were concluded and around 250 people gathered to see the entry of the Super Ape. And what an entry it was! Accompanied by a drum solo, Mr. Perry appeared as soon as the bass hit, clad in a velvet cloak with Buddhist print, Jamaica-T-Shirt and red-golden boxer shorts, trailing a suitcase behind. Actually, it would take the rest of this review describing every part of his ornature, speculating about the hidden symbolic meaning of each small detail – well, just watch the photos and see for yourself!
One of his first actions was to share out a present to his fans in the front row, but it wasn't easy to understand neither his explanation of what it was nor the lyrics of the first song Jesus Perry. He ended it with the sharp cry "Pirates!" and introduced the title of the next track, 4th Dimension, by substituting the negatively connoted syllable 'di-' with a positive one, yielding 4th Lifemension.
Funny and salacious, the subsequent In the Bathroom was probably one of Perrys favourites. His spiked cap sparkling, he obviously had fun moving and rapping to the skanky beat. After explaining and mimicking all (yes, really all) the things you could possibly do in a bathroom, he opened his water bottle and sprinkled a circle around himself on stage. Planned blessing or momentary inspiration? That is, like so many other things he does and says, open to speculation.
Up next was Diplomat, a very relaxed example of the Dub Music the artist has become famous for. Introducing the sound engineer and producer Romain Ferrey aka EasyMode, this song was also a moment of glory for the accompanying band ERM (Easy Riddim Maker). With a haunting guitar, off-beat drums and body-massaging bass, it was more the beauty of the music than the (again) hardly comprehensible lyrics that captured the audience. At the end of the song, a breathtaking guitar solo by Mr. T carried a melancholy that was the perfect counterbalance to Perry's final statement "Music is life, and life refuses to die!".
According to the set-list, Capricorn was next (however, don't take this for face value – I had the impression that throughout the concert, the Inspector Gadget sang whatever he saw fit), a song during which he invited one lucky lady on stage to a round of dance and shake-hands. During Lee meets ERM, he introduced the drummer of the band, Olivier Gangloff aka Electric Rabbit, and asked him for a heartbeat. "Shake your leg!", "Shake your head!" and (little surprise) "Shake your hips!" as well as "Jump!" the singer intoned, showing his guests the movements intended and inviting them to join in.
In Rastafari, the Upsetter strikes out to kill satan, vampires and thieves, telling us "I hate fake! Look here, I came here to help you and to bless you!" before the song dissolved into another throbbing dub called Shuffle. Clearly past his warm-up by now, the artist disposed of his cloak and introduced the bass player Bill, while the intro to No Bad Boy filled the hall with the cackling of a hen. As the song transformed into Move On, Lee greeted two black brothers, telling them "I am still black, don't fear me! It's not your fault and it's not my fault either!". In fact, he kept up a positive interaction with the people present all the while, their reaction only subdued by the fact that few really seemed to understand what the artist was saying.
Not much explanation was needed for the following medley of well-known tracks directly connected to Lee Perry's glory days as a producer. Disco Devil and Sun is Shining had the massive sing along finally, lighters lifted to add to the luminous atmosphere created by the capable light engineers of the venue.
Once more absorbed in his role as a preacher, the entertainer then talked about the curse of omnipresent cash during his last song: "Money is a virus worse than telephone. Money stinks!". Using her offer of a glass of wine as the opportunity to tell everyone that they shouldn't smoke cigarettes or drink alcohol, he baptised the lady in front of him with his drinking water.
Around 75 minutes in action by now, Mr. Perry announced his leave and told everybody to have a good night. And then, this amazing little man put his cloak back on, grabbed his red trolley case and left the stage, leaving behind a smiling and cheering crowd.
Thus, this not at all general evening came to a close. Maybe more austere critics would mock his appearance, question his lyrics and condemn his murmurous articulation. However, to go through all that this man has gone through in life, and still keep up his unique humour, his contagious joy and his overwhelming passion for music calls for deepest respect, not to mention the sheer amount of output he has produced. He is eccentric, yes. But he is also a man with a vision who is working hard on his next project. After the release of his album Humanicity, the cinema-length movie Vision of Paradise is about to be finished after capturing thirteen years in the life of this charismatic person who celebrates his 77th birthday next month. Let us hope he has many more words to say, many more sounds to share and many more colours to brighten up our world in the future. All the best!!!
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