Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Cooked power

I seen Iggy & The Stooges at Max's Kansas City back in the 70's. A mighty fine show and one that's one of my golden standards for a great gig.

The second version of the reborn Stooges - with James Williamson stepping in on guitar since Ron Asheton's untimely death a few years ago - started playing big festivals abroad at the beginning of this year (maybe late last year) and this Summer began playing headlining shows in the U.S. I was thinking of seeing them at ATP over Labor Day weekend, tho dreading the festival-goer traffic compounded by the holiday weekend traffic. So I was exceedingly relieved to find them gigging in Atlantic City - a scant hour and a half from the greater Trenton area we call home.

The show being on a Friday in late August, we left mid afternoon to avoid weekend shore traffic and made good time. We checked into the Sheraton there (even buying the hotel room thru it was NOT cheap and it's easy to see why AC's tourist business ain't thriving during this recession -- TOO EXPENSIVE), crashed for a while, then walked through the phalanx of name brand outlet stores that line the route from the Convention Center to the boardwalk; as Stooges bass player mike watt might opine: BOUJ!

After winding our way thru the strategically designed maze of some casino (they're MEANT to keep you walking in circles from slot machine to gaming table and back of course) to the beach and strolled to the House of Blues which is at the far Northern end of the boardwalk. It's a trippy little trip with your typical slightly seedy South Jersey shore shops and pizza joints interspersed between the huge facades of the various themed casinos. Being accustomed to the Northern beaches -- and Wildwood which invests considerable resources in maintaining their beachfront -- ACs is kind of a shock -- a TINY sliver of sand; standing on the boards you could chuck a nerf ball into the ocean.

The House of Blues is your typical establishment swimming in faux culture -- made to look elegantly run down and funky; why not. I've seen gigs in far worst places.

So the Stooges take the stage and immediately start kicking serious ass pulling out the classic tunes from "Raw Power" - one of the great rock (as opposed to rock 'n' roll) albums ever in my book (and I know this is not an esp. unique or novel position). I've seen Iggy a number of times over the year and listened to the bulk of his solo of the most immediately striking things about this performance is that he's obviously authentically invested in it, feeling it and believing in what he's doing. And when Iggy's into it, he's one of the greatest rockers out there. There were times when he appeared to be consciously "performing," doing his Iggy act, pulling the poses and routines that the audience came expecting/hoping to see. But there were as many times when he was clearly grooving on his bandmates, inhabiting the truth of the lyrics he was singing and basically being the primal gas-gas-gas his legend is based on.

No doubt having this band to work with makes this task viable. Scott Asheton remains one of the definitive drummers of the Detroit high energy school of rock. James Williamson's guitar was concise and explosive. By leaving music and carving out a successful job in the square-john world (something to do with Sony's computer shit), has allowed him to avoid the ennui and cynicism that he might have developed if he'd spent that time going to thru the motions trying to eke out a career in music with ever diminishing returns. mike watt -- to my mind -- is the perfect bassist to complete the equation. Technically dazzling -- one of those guys who can translate what's in his head directly to his fingers -- his love and reverence for the Stooges's legacy channels all that expertise into playing what those songs need i.e. some of the greatest hard rock riffing the world's ever known (courtesy of the late great Ron Asheton who played bass on the "Raw Power" songs) delivered in a state of utter ecstasy. Watching watt playing, clearly entranced by Iggy, then Scott, then James was a lovely treat. Oh yeah, Steve Mckay, saxist from Fun House was present and accounted for too.

Besides playing the "Raw Power" repertoire, they played songs from the first two albums (Ronnie refused to play the "Raw Power" stuff -- STILL miffed at being demoted to bassist, tho honestly - he was far more proficient on the 4 strings in my opinion) as well as songs written before, during and after the "Raw Power" sessions like "Johanna" which was especially thrilling to me as I never expected to hear any of those songs played live during my lifetime, ESPECIALLY not by the Stooges themselves. (yes, I know Iggy's played "I Gotta Right" as a solo artist over the years)

All in all -- a great night!

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