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Lee 'Scratch' Perry & MotörheadIn São Paulo
By Martin Longley
Via Funchal is one of São Paulo's leading large-scale venues, like unto Brixton Academy in its steadily sloping gradient and wide-angle feel, possessed of an almost quaint antiquity. Lee 'Scratch' Perry and Motörhead both gave excellent performances here in the last few weeks, though alas not on the same night.
For a being who has elaborated on his already sufficient legend-status by encouraging the understanding that he's mentally settled on another globe, not quite aligned to what most would deem the real realms, Perry is coming across as being almost 'together', compared to what was his abstract reputation of old. I've been in his presence (for it is great) on three occasions in sort-of that amount of years, and he's becoming ever more capable of delivering a focused, well-honed gig, inhabiting the stage for most of the time, and delivering almost continual verbal spoutings.
We used to hear that Scratch was unreliable or rambling, in the bad sense of those words, meaning that he wasn't so capable of keeping an audience gripped. Now, he's quite tightly ordered, without losing his necessarily loose phrasing and floating mystical aura. Strengthening this latter is his initial appearance of his small, wiry frame, topped by an extremely tall wizard's hat. Only Sun Ra or Flavor Flav could probably get away with a fashion statement of this type being taken with a wryly smiling respect.
Perry's cracked warble is one of music's most enjoyably distinctive vocal sounds, to be set beside the individualist tones of David Thomas, Bob Dylan and Mark E Smith. His band are adept at creating the bathyspherical deep dub detonations required for his songs. Slow motion limb-rubberosity is compulsory as the set gathers weight, the atmosphere thickly infused with weed exhalations.
Somehow, reggae feels at home in Brazil, but lest we forget that metal is important here too, let's cast our peepers around the rammed crowds of the Motörhead show, marvelling over where all of these mattedly-tressed, black leather-clad rockers can be found in the sunshine daylight hours. It's a couple of decades since I last caught Lemmy and company (like a dose of the clap?), and I was wondering whether they'd have changed much. No...
Even so, this must surely have been one of their superior showings, judging by their response to the apeshit antics of the crowd, with rampant surfing, including at one stage, four geezers standing on the heads of others, in a satanic ring of bellowing exultation. Sweat rivulets ran, throats went hoarse. Ears were, yes, deafened, sent home ringing bedwards.
At first, the simplicity of this drums, bass and guitar triumvirate is almost impossibly muffled, coming on like a single wall of rumble, but then the sound (or mine own eardrums) settle down, picking out the rich dynamics of numbers that frequently sound very similar, but nevertheless hold magnetic energy aloft for an entire ninety minutes. Having hit sixty, Lemmy hasn't slipped in potency, and still looks, from a distance, as he ever did. Even relatively stripling-esque guitarist Phil Campbell has now been a member for over twenty years, and as the set progresses, his solos lift out to the fore, becoming wilder and more deranged. Sticksman Mikkey Dee even manages to invest the inevitable metal drum solo with a slantwise sense of rumbling experimentation.
The trio give their all, visibly encouraged by the electrified crowd. The encore opens with a semi-acoustic Roadhouse Blues, then jacknifes into the compulsory Ace Of Spades and Overkill. The final avant garde texture is supplied by Lemmy's feedback bass thrum, pulsating endlessly into the night. Okay, so this was probably artificially enhanced, but it made a fittingly displaced conclusion to this ball-bustin' extravaganza, these grizzled English deadpans surely being greeted with great puzzlement by the average Brasilian...