Andrew H. Walker, Getty Images Nine days after the deadly tornado that touched…
- Posted on Dec 14th 2009 12:00PM by Kenneth Partridge
Scratch is perhaps aware that his mere survival today guarantees him a paying audience, and at various points in Sunday's set, the 73-year-old repeated such phrases as, "I am not dead," "I do not die," and "I wish not to lie, and I refuse to die."
These were among his more cogent declarations. A producer, first and foremost, Scratch is, at best, a passable vocalist and entertainer. The self-professed "madman" croaks and chats, mostly, relying on the quirks and eccentricities that, over the years, have fueled his most innovative reggae recordings. Unfortunately, these don't always translate to the stage.
That's not to say his show is without merits. On 'Roast Fish and Cornbread,' Scratch asserted himself as bandleader, instructing the saxophone player to "buzz like a bee" and wiggling his fingers for emphasis. The musician, the sextet's lone dread-locked member, ignored the directive and continued honking on the offbeat, his defiance more a testament to his group's reggae-by-numbers perfectionism than any disrespect.
If their accompaniments were nondescript, the musicians at least proved good sports. They indulged Scratch on an interminably long 'Pum-Pum,' a love letter to women -- or certain parts of women, anyway -- cut for 2008's 'Repentance,' an album he made with, of all people, Andrew W.K.
'Repentance' is better than it has any right to be, but it can't hold a spliff to Scratch's work with such iconic Jamaican artists as Bob Marley and Max Romeo. Sunday night, Scratch covered the former's 'One Drop' and ended his encore with the latter's 'War Inna Babylon,' prefacing that final number with what may have been a dig against President Obama's Nobel Peace Prize.
"We need peace," Scratch chanted over the tune's final bars, disappearing behind the curtain. He was out of sight but still audible -- and still, it bears repeating, very much alive.