Iggy & The Stooges - Hammersmith Apollo, London
If there’s one thing that can be said about Iggy Pop, it’s that his fan base certainly reaches across the age gap. A quick glance around confirms that the audience tonight range from 13 year old Kerrang!-reading nu-metal fans to 50 year-old couples, all ready to worship at the altar of the Igster and his re-united Stooges – the first time they’ve played together in London for 33 years.
The presence of some seriously hardcore fans out there is undeniable, clad in ‘Raw Power’ jackets. The upstairs lounge is packed to bursting point, all here to see Iggy & The Stooges perform their classic Funhouse album as part of All Tomorrow’s Parties ‘Don’t Look Back’ season, which will also see the likes of Belle & Sebastian and Gang of Four performing classic albums in their chronological entirety.
There’s a rather bizarre Polish goth band in support, as the wait for Iggy gets longer. Finally there’s a huge raw from the crowd as the members of The Stooges appear onstage, with Ron Asheton - a chubby, curly-haired dad dressed soberly rather than the usual Nazi outfit from the 70’s – strapping on his guitar, and a bandana-sporting Scott ‘Rock Action’ Asheton climbing to the drum stool, Meanwhile, there’s Mike Watt, replacing the deceased Dave Alexander, resplendent in his ordinariness (jeans and non-descript shirt).
And then there’s Iggy, running on from the darkness of right of stage, already topless and psyching himself up as the band crash into ‘Down On The Street’. It’s an explosive an opener as you’ve ever seen, and within minutes Iggy’s shagging the amps, falling flat on the floor, and swinging the microphone dangerously close to the photographers as he bellows the songs’ hallucinatory lyrics about being on the street “where the faces shine”, Ron standing still focusing on the metallic riff. It’s impossible to take your eyes off Iggy as he runs around the stage like a child possessed. Ron watches him calmly, perhaps contemplating the irony that while he’s remained the one member of the band who stayed off the drugs and drink, he’s grown paunchy while Iggy looks like a man half his age and with twice the energy. At least they’re here, unlike original bassist Dave Alexander, who died of drink.
Next up is ‘Loose’, with Iggy yelling “I stuck it deep inside”, and extending the sexual suggestion of the song by undoing the zipper of his trousers. Thankfully he doesn’t get his todger out just yet. Meanwhile, there’s the primal scream of ‘TV Eye’, Iggy stagediving into the crowd and screaming “see that cat / Down on her back / She’s got a TV eye on me,” the song’s bludgeoning, massively amplified riff forcing it’s way into the back of your skull. There’s barely time to think before we’re onto the next song, where things are slowed down slightly for the slithering, filthy blues workout of ‘Dirt’, Iggy’s paean to transcendence through being treated like trash, Mike Watt’s bass sounding similar to the kind that Ray Manzarek produced on his keyboard with The Doors. Iggy by now is running around the stage, banging into Watt (who spurs him on even more) and jumping up and down on the spot, somehow defying his 50 years of age (steroids might have something to do with it). He genuinely loves being up there too, as he confirms with the yell “We’re fucking thrilled and fucking amazed to be here!”
Funhouse was never a ‘straight’ rock n roll album, and Iggy has spoke in interviews of how the band was listening to John Coltrane and Sun Ra around the time of the album. Thus, as Ron weaves hallucinatory layers of wah-wah guitar, saxaphonist Steve MacKay steps out of the shadows for ‘1970’. Iggy screeches “Out of my mind on Saturday night / 1970 growing in sight” as MacKay’s wailing, free-jazz saxophone lines become ever more demented, an aural soundtrack to Iggy’s hedonistic, intense lifestyle, before they’re finally reduced to atonal screeches, with Iggy screaming “I feel alright” over and over again. This punk-jazz meltdown reduces the crowd to hysterics, but it gets even better with album title track, which essentially continues ‘1970’s jamming feel, only with a funkier and stronger edge. As the song ends, you wonder how they will approach Funhouse’s final denouement, the album’s closer ‘LA Blues’. An atonal, anarchic closer, on the album there’s no rhythm and no chords as such, rather an endless screech of structureless slide guitar and freeform drums. Iggy’s running round the stage, his todger nearly out (which surely must be making a few 14-year-old girls in the audience throw up). Live, they combine it with ‘Funhouse’ so that the two tracks and stretched together beyond the 15-minute mark, MacKay’s sax skronk remaining an intact reference point throughout. And that’s it – an unforgettable run through one of the most influential albums ever, one that’s shaped much of the modern musical landscape in so many ways. The Stooges’ music has echoed not only through punk but Krautrock, post-punk, and modern indie music in many ways.
Except that’s not the end of their set, of course, and as they take leave the stage, with the audience held in rapturous applause, you just know the show won’t end then. Up in the balcony, there’s not a single person sitting down. Will they come back on? Of course they will – Funhouse clocks in at under 40 minutes, a true punk statement just as with the first Ramones album. Sure enough, they’re back on soon to a roar from the crowd – and apprehension as to what they might do next, now that the album has been done in its entirety. As the familiar opening salvos to ‘1969’ and ‘Little Doll’ kick in, it’s obvious: they’re going to cover most of the first, self-titled album as well (though not necessarily in chronological order). ‘1970’ in particular is stunning, Scott Asheton bashing several shades of shit out of his drum kit, Iggy gyrating around and hanging from the pillar on the right of the stage.
This wouldn’t be a Stooges reunion show without a stage invasion, sure enough, and Iggy’s taunt to the crowd that “anyone who thinks there man enough can come up here” is followed by anarchy, as a barrage of stage invaders evade the bouncers and go mental to the inevitable run through ‘No Fun’ and ‘I Wanna Be Your Dog’, forming a close huddle around Iggy. The latter song’s sado-maschistic topic is made explicit when Iggy introduces it as about “wanting to be your animal!” The encore climaxes with ‘Dead Rock Star’, a track from the Skull Ring album. It’s not quite over yet, though, and Iggy calls the rest of the band offstage back on, saluting the crowd with “We’re the motherfucking Stooges!”
This being the ‘classic’ line-up of The Stooges, there’s not a single track from Raw Power aired. But it doesn’t matter. It’s been a cataclysmic evening, and an easy contender for gig of the year, for sure – it would be hard for any act to top this, but even more so with the impostors currently recycling second-hand garage rock riffs (yes, I’m talking about YOU, Jet). The Stooges slayed the audience and showed everyone how it’s done. This was a magnificent, once-in-a-lifetime experience.