Who: Iggy & The Stooges
Where: Festival Hall, Melbourne
When: 27th March 2013
When The Stooges, i.e. godfathers of the US punk movement, decided to not just reunite a little over a decade ago, but still wanted to release new material, there was an obvious cloud of fear that appeared to fans of the group. Understandable questions arose, such as: would they still be able to live up to their energetic stage shows of years gone by? Will the new material come anywhere close to their original output? 2005’s ‘The Weirdness’ album most certainly did not. However based on tonight’s performance, when it comes to the 65 year old Iggy Pop and his band of rebel Stooges, these questions were not only answered in a positive way, but included a massive ‘fuck yeah, we still got it’ attitude, following right behind it.
As a result of bumping into and subsequently catching up with a friend from home outside the venue, – where she was deciding if she would or wouldn’t bother sneaking in with an already scanned ticket – I unfortunately missed the original reunited line up of the Beasts of Bourbon playing the support role. The venue itself comes across like an airplane hanger mixing things up with an old styled gym, with its high ceilings and rustic looking floorboards. It has an old school grungy feel to it, which suits me down to the ground. Their isn’t too much distance between the sound desk at the rear of the hall and the stage, and it was very filling up very quickly with 20 minutes still to go before the band were due on stage.
With operatic music playing over the PA, the sense of anticipation from the older fans in the audience, who were in the majority, was plain for all to see. There were just as many shades of grey and white spread across the hairlines on show in the crowd, as there was about to enter from both sides of the stage, bar Iggy himself that is! The lights dimmed a little too early for the roadie that was still on stage, but that didn’t stop the crowd from cheering, which led to the various band members rushing, or in Mike Watt’s case, speedily limping, to their instruments. This current incarnation of the band includes the aforementioned Iggy and Mike Watt on bass, along with original ‘Raw Power’ era guitarist James Williamson and saxophonist Steve Mackay from ‘Funhouse’ times. Unfortunately Scott Ashton isn’t healthy enough to tour anymore, so Iggy’s solo drummer Toby Dammit, takes his place behind the drums and bashes seven shades of shit out of his kit for the rest of the evening.
They open up with a double whammy of old school punk anthems in ‘Raw Power’ and ‘Gimme Danger’, both of which set the tone for the rest of their performance. From the off, Iggy covers every possible nook and cranny of the stage, with a swagger and style that denies a man of his age. He possesses everything a front man of any band should do; charisma and confidence which includes a variety of erratic dance movements, all of which easily puts a lot to today’s supposed rock ‘n’ rollers to shame. Williamson, who has been back in the frame since 2010 following the passing of Ron Ashton the year previously, just oozes confidence from the initial chords of ‘Raw Power’. You wouldn’t believe this was someone who shunned not only the music industry but also the guitar for a few decades!
These are swiftly followed up with new tracks: ‘Burn’, that includes a screeching intro by Williamson, and ‘Gun’, which are both very well received. It was then time to go back to earlier material with ‘1970’ where Iggy mentioned that it can go ”right up your ass” and ‘Funhouse’, which includes a well executed, but still messy stage invasion. It’s here that various fans who rushed the stage, tried to get a touch of Iggy, who was being protected by the band’s roadie throughout. Watt, Williamson and Mackay were more or less hidden behind the mass of bodies on stage. Some of the security were pulling and dragging people away, who were seemingly just enjoying being up on stage, at times in a little too overpowering sort of way. Once the stage was cleared a short interlude took place as the band, minus Iggy, blasted through an instrumental wall of noise.
Returning to the stage for ‘Loose’ and the classic ‘Search & Destroy’, Iggy continued his never ending dancing and jerking around the stage. The front-man continued to keep their roadie on his toes during ‘Johanna’ as he smashed the mic stand with great exuberance across the stage, while the title track of the same 1973 ‘Kill City’ album, followed suit, both of which continued to show off Williamson’s guitar prowess. Next up was early ‘Raw Power’ session tune ‘Cock In My Pocket’ that is an early blues sounding track, and had all four musicians sounding incredibly tight. A fierce take on ‘I Wanna Be Your Dog’ included Iggy barking loudly at the crowd, and then flopping to the floor, while Williamson continued to roar with ease on final main set track ‘No Fun’. 13 exhilarating songs were blasted out in just under an hour, which says a lot about this collection of so called elder statesmen.
‘Penetration’ was the first of a five song encore, with ‘I Got A Right’ and the 3rd new track of the evening ‘Dirty Deal’, keeping up the fast yet continually tight pace of the main set. Iggy then mentioned how he felt that “Australia had a lot of beautiful women” and dedicated a dirty sounding ‘Your Pretty Face Is Going To Hell’ to a girl in the front row. Final song ‘Open up and Bleed’ began with Mackay playing harmonica, but after a slow start, including Iggy getting a hand clap started in the crowd, the band kicked into 5th gear one last time.
With Dammit endlessly smashing his kit; Williamson making ear bleeding squeal sounds stemming from his guitar; Mackay’s sax going off on one; and Watt plucking away in unison with the drums, while drenched in sweat, Iggy went down to the crowd one final time, before saying his goodbyes and limping off stage. Mackay and Williamson eventually follow Pop off, but Dammit and Watt seem to battle on for a few minutes more, much to the joy of the audience. Eventually they finish up their dual, and Watt decides to throw his bass over his shoulder, hunches down to pick up his glasses and limps off, like a sweaty old Quasimodo. Epic, is the initial word that springs to mind when describing what I witnessed tonight.