With the music arm of the 2013 edition of SXSW in full swing and sonic force, who better to kick off that inaugural night deep in the heart of Austin, Texas at the House of Vans showcase at Mohawk than Iggy and the Stooges, who have already gained plenty of PR this year, with an album on the way followed by a summer tour. The band threw their hearts full of napalm into the delirious and frenzied crowd a few nights ago, debuting a few songs from their upcoming album Ready To Die, which is the first to feature the lead guitar strains of James Williamson on record since the band’s seminal 1973 release Raw Power, released over 40 years ago this year.
Led by T-N-T [he’s dynamite] lead singer Iggy Pop, who although in his mid-60s, still burns like a white hot, white noise whirling dervish of intensity and sonically apoplectic moxie, had the crowd eating out of the palm of his hand, which has been his musical wont since he made mincemeat of a microphone and a stage over 45 years ago when The Stooges’ first musical strains were heard in Southern Michigan.
At SXSW, the band (with Williamson, Toby Dammit playing in place of always a Stooge Scott Asheton on drums, and bass-kicker Mike Watt on that four-stringed instrument) reportedly opened with the song “Raw Power” and never looked back, they came on like a blazing wrecking ball into the crowd, thunderbolts manifested in the shape of musicians. With a probable eye on knowing how important the gig was to their reputation and bridging generations of fans, the Stooges did not disappoint.
Pop danced all over the stage, with unabashed steely-eyed pirouettes that is his extreme stock in trade and came off like a psychotic version of Hollywood hot footer legends Gene Kelly or Fred Astaire. It’s his element indeed and he knows exactly what to do, it’s second nature of a highest art. The band kept up with him and the VU meters were in the red and then some, as they burned their way through “I Wanna Be Your Dog,” “Search and Destroy,” “No Fun,” and a few numbers from the upcoming album, like “Burn” and the title track, before it was all over. Breathlessly and temperatures still rising with mercury levels exploding, the band came back to do an encore of the track “Funhouse,” with the sax player who had played on the original way back when, Steve Mackay.
Also that night sported sets by The Specials and Ghostface Killah, but really, as diverse and fan base driven as both those aforementioned bands are, it was like spitting musically in the wind. It wasn’t their fault. It’s just that, try playing on top of rubble after a band just fuckin’ killed it before you, decimating any hope of community of any kind. It wasn’t Iggy and the Stooges’ fault, it wasn’t intentional, it’s just that once that machine gets in motion, it becomes a take-no-prisoners kind of musical manifestation, like a chainsaw coming at your face.
The Stooges still have that kind of power swagger to do this, and while possibly the upcoming release won’t live up to the legend that the band really is, (just as how arguably 2007’s The Weirdness didn’t either) there’s no denting the band’s iron tight, bank vault door size web that hovers around The Stooges’ legend, something that was proven to the fortunate audience that wound up blown away and drained in the most positive sense, after Iggy and the Stooges finished their set in Austin. The Stooges are like a one night stand that gives you the greatest lay you may ever have had in a live musical sense, and you aren’t sad or disillusioned in the morning when you find that they’ve left. Just glowing with full satisfaction, and then some.
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