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When the Subatomic Sound System begins to thump out the room, a few songs later, a gurgly, almost cartoonish voice emanates from the speakers. It’s clear that the voice is live, but it’s coming from somewhere not on stage. It’s a recognizable voice, with a touch more age and rust on it. It’s Lee Scratch Perry, toasting, somewhere backstage with a microphone.

He emerges two songs in wearing his hand-crafted suit of mis-matched elements, a hat bedazzled with sequins, buttons, other metal objects, a feather. On his shoes, two small mirrors. He holds the mic next to his mouth, and sticking out from his hand, several sticks on incense wafting into his face.

The living legend has always been rough around the edges, but at 81, his “Ras-tafar-I!” refrain is even more croaky and indistinct. Legendary percussionist Larry McDonald (of 1970s Black Ark fame) does a lot in tempering Perry’s loose lyricism and helps to frame the classic Rasta against Brooklyn-based Subatomic Sound System. The product is remarkably close to Perry’s original feel, but with Augustus Pablo-esque diversions with Subatomic main guy John Emch’s melodica bursts. 

Live review: Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry in Detroit at El Club Monday, May 15 2017

Don't be the product, buy the product!

Schweinderl