Lee 'Scratch' Perry

UEA LCR, Norwich

Reggae is often thought of as sunshine music, a soundtrack to the summer rich in peace 'n' love platitudes.

But much of the genre's greatest music is more akin to a thunderstorm - dark, simmering with electricity and enjoyably scary.

One man above all has led Jamaican music through this territory in quantum leaps of inspired brilliance: Lee 'Scratch' Perry.

For all the respect accorded to Perry for his ground-breaking production work at his Black Ark studio in the mid-1970s, there has often been a question mark over him as a live proposition in the years since his musical peak.

Last time I saw him perform, Perry proved disappointing - but the contrast with Friday's show could not have been greater.

Perry and backing band the Robotiks commanded the sold-out UEA.

Most Read

Perry's merit as a performer has never been his singing, and true to form he croaked his way through the songs, filling the gaps with his trademark surreal stream of consciousness monologues.

Rather, it's the sheer eccentric charisma of the man, and at the age of 66 the aura that surrounds him.

To watch the man who produced Bob Marley's best work, and who is responsible for some of the most beautifully out-there music ever produced, is a thrill in itself.

That's not to downplay the strength of the music.

The Robotiks laid down faithful versions of a string of tracks from the Black Ark years - Soul Fire, To Be a Lover, Vampire, culminating in a glorious version of Perry's tribute to the simple Rastafarian way of life, Roast Fish and Cornbread.

As Perry announced his departure "back into the twilight zone", the audience left knowing they had witnessed one of the greats.