A good part of the appeal of the Jamaican music known as “dub” comes from its evocative sense of anodyne entropy. With shambling bass lines rolling over choppy drum beats, treated with echo and other manner of studio manipulation, it is music that feels on the verge of collapsing upon itself. Lee “Scratch” Perry, one of the towering figures in reggae music, is a primary architect of this sound, his landmark productions striking an exquisite balance between spaciness and rhythmic propulsion. But at Los Angeles’ new Knitting Factory, an unfocused Perry never quite found his equilibrium.
From the very start, the show teetered on the abyss. Delayed by a missing bassist, the three-piece band never rose above stiff competence once he did show up, and Perry himself never connected with the band.
Hopping around the stage in a mirrored cap, reflective orange pants and a series of sunglasses, he appeared for most of the two-hour performance to be on a different planet from the band, his high tenor whine often following a different drummer before lapsing into discursive jabbering.
The live mixing of Perry’s production collaborator, the Mad Professor, managed to rouse the singer on “Inspector Gadget” and “Heads of State,” but more representative were the listless renditions of “Curly Locks,” “Roast Fish and Cornbread” and “War in-a Babylon.”