On Friday the 12th of July, Mr. Lee Perry had an outstanding show in Rome, at the Angelo Mai Occupato.
The opening act was Mama Marjas, probably the most important female reggae singer in Italy, along with another rising star of the Italian reggae, Miss Mykela. The combo presented many songs from their recent album "We Ladies" mixing their songs together as well as with their own individual tunes. Mama Marjas was the main star of the duo and she sang most of her popular tunes, like Everytime, Babylon Drugs, Robert Nesta Marley and BlessThe Ladies.
During their show there was also time for a dancing segment, with the performance of the Italian Dancehall QueenAlevanille.
Then it was time for the main star, Lee Scratch Perry. Anyone who has read something about him knows how he comes dressed to the stage: he arrived with a Rastafarian travel bag, cherry colored beard and hair, rings on every finger, a hat full of mirrors and images of Haile Selassie, and sparkly things all over his boots (he is 77 years old, now please think about your granpa: if he has anyone of these things in common with Perry please do send me a picture!)
Just looking at him was worth the price of the ticket; the way he moves, chats, dances is amazing, and the mystic aura that he has is something that really keeps you staring at him throughout the whole show.
Backed by a Dj, Lee Perry started off his show soft withIntroducing Myself and Inspector Gadget, but the music moved almost immediately to a sort of 'electronic-dub' that shook the audience deeply.
In this way he transformed most of the original reggae tunes into a new style (Blackboard Jungle and Devil Dead were almost impossible to recognize, I know he did them because the friend I was with managed to get the tracklist at the end of the show). Purity Rock and Roast Fish & Cornbread were again changed with a techno beat, and Secret Laboratory was on the same page.
He kept on smiling, dancing and singing for nearly two hours, and after a short break closed the show with Coconut Groove,Homeland Jamaica and Ruler of The Universe.
I have to say that it wasn't the show I expected to see going there (I thought he would have done at least a few Marley's tunes) but I was pleasantly surprised by him. To see a 77 years old man, who is a living legend and without whom reggae and music in general wouldn't have been the same, playing in a small place, for two hours and clearly enjoying it, was amazing. He seems to be beyond everything, beyond music, beyond his figure and even beyond himself when he chats following the beat.
He likes to perform, that's one thing clear, and he likes to interact with his audience: for the whole concert he shook hands with the people, smiled at who was taking pictures of him, took a girl on stage to dance with him (while playing Pussy Man) and even asked people to scratch his back!
Music-wise Lee Perry put up a great show, but what people will mostly remember of the night is his mystical figure and his pure enjoinment in what he does.