Lee Scratch Perry, with support from Kioko, at Ironworks, Inverness.

Over the past week or so depressing grey skies and rain have given way to hints of Spring.  Not quite West Indian weather but in terms of Scotland in March not bad.  So after a long but pleasant day in the garden getting it ready for the tatties it was good to get down town for some reggae music at the Ironworks.

The veteran reggae artiste Lee Scratch Perry was the main event and support was provided by up and coming Birmingham band Kioko.

Kioko are an eight piece band comprising two guitarists, bassist, drummer, keyboard player and a three piece brass section.  The played a set of ten songs which showcased their diverse talents – skilful guitar work, nifty keyboards, solid bass and drums, powerful brass and vocals.  The front man Ewan Whyte has Dingwall connections but it was the first time north for the rest of the band.  They put in a very energetic performance with some spirited athletic moves.  There was good level of interaction between the band and the audience with some communal hugs and singing – including a competition between Ewan and guitarist Matt Doyle to see whose half of the audience could sing loudest.  The band have strong reggae roots – the influence of at least Steel Pulse and UB40 coming through.  They also have a strong social conscience.  Well worth going to see if you can.  In meantime check out their Facebook page.

Lee Scratch Perry can be classed in the living legend category.  The eighty year old sonic engineer from Jamaica has worked with a long line of reggae artists including Bob Marley and has produced a huge output of material in his own right.  Mr Perry was supported by his long time band the Upsetters.  In the manner of many African related groups the Upsetters appeared on stage first and started laying down big spacey beats before Mr Perry appeared.  An: “Are you ready” booming across the sonic layers announced the arrival of Mr Perry himself.  For an eighty year old Mr Perry gave a very athletic performance taking the audience through a set of dance moves which meshed in time with the music.  Unfortunately during the first section of the concert Mr Perry dropped his microphone on the stage.  The result of this for the rest of the performance meant that his vocals became muffled.  Given much of Lee Scratch Perry is poetry as well as music this was a bit of a disappointment.  Thus much of the spirituality of the event was lost.  Having said this occasional snippets of ideas could be heard – such as an ode to ginger wine, a tribute to ladies – which brought comparisons to Robert Burns to mind and a discourse linking boots, books, Facebook and the Bible together.

There were some really interesting temporal aspects to the concert.  The juxtaposition of a young band next to a well-established band was one.  Another related to Bob Marley.  As elements and beats of Sun is shining and Exodus swished around the venue the question emerged – was Mr Perry the original inspiration for much of Mr Marley’s music or was it the other way round?  Anyway it was good to imagine the spirit of Mr Marley floating around and listening in.  Finally there was a moment during the song Happy Birthday when Mr Perry took of his cap.  The years seemed to fall away and on stage was a small boy happily leaping around.

The concert ended with Mr Perry wandering off stage continuing to talk as he had come on.  The audience wanted more and the group and Mr Perry wandered back on for one more song.  At this point you could have feel the evening and the songs could have gone on that little bit longer.

Apart from the problem with Mr Perry’s microphone the sound was extremely clear and the lighting supplemented the show throughout.  Many thanks to Ironworks for hosting the reviewer.

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Rob Polson can’t play a note but loves listening to music, especially played live. Likes any sort of music but particularly interested in ambient, early and world music. Being involved with InvernessGigs gives me the opportunity to get out and about and listen to music, try some new beer and also to develop my writing skills.