Music Reviews

Raw Power Live: In The Hands Of The Fans, by Iggy And The Stooges

CoverOkay, so you want an explanation. “Yeah, Iggy Pop, but what’s Raw Power?! Who are Iggy And The Stooges?” you ask.

Iggy And The Stooges are (mark this tense, and ask yourself how many rock and roll bands from the 60’s and 70’s can not only unite again for a present-day show, but absolutely destroy the stage as they did in their blooming youth) progenitors of raucous, energetic rock and roll, and awe-inspiring, life-changing live performances. The Stooges are a powerhouse of collective energy so strong, that by 1974, (at their creative peak), there simply wasn’t a musical partition left their forces hadn’t entirely demolished.

Iggy And The Stooges are a seminal rock group that emerged formidably in the late 1960’s. From the beginning, they shocked audiences with the likes of their homemade instruments, like blenders inside of microphones, oil dregs used for percussion, and spiked golf shoes employed for dancing on sheet metal with panache like an inspired shaman on hot coals.

Beyond their captivating stage presence and gnarled sound, The Stooges—namely Pop—are remembered for their extemporaneous stage antics (Pop’s patented “stage diving” being paramount) and other primitively inspired dance moves fired by the inveterate beseeching of the hearts of young men—those who climb the divine with the notes of the electric guitar coursing through their blood, refusing to fall from the sound until the song is through. For The Stooges, the song was/is never through. It just evolves.pic01 (389x500)

[Hold your tongue. This isn’t prolix, it’s The Stooges—a band so energetic, so powerful, and so very overwhelming at once, that language does lag and ultimately falter in explanation.]

By 1974, The Stooges walked away from the mayhem and subsequent “proto-punk” genre they fathered on stage and in the studio, leaving behind three immensely influential LP’s: The Stooges (1969), Fun House (1970)and Raw Power (1973), and nearly a decade’s worth of bloody memories at various gigs around the United States and England—bedlam left for legend.

In fact, just one show in England, at the infamous King’s Cross Cinema, in 1972, was enough to incite a few kids in attendance to break with what they knew and forge out into a burgeoning unknown of pure, intransigent rock and roll danger. That is, from the inspirational melee detonated on this audience, in the wake of this performance, The Sex Pistols and The Clash would be formed. So the legend evolves . . . .

[Perhaps by reading all of this you’ve begun to grasp the importance of The Stooges in recent music history?]

Well, you’re right. None of that truly matters. And you’re probably not here for a history lesson. This is about one night, one show. This is about a resurrection.

Despite debuting on the Billboard charts April Fool’s Day of 1969, this group is no joke; they are one of the longest lasting rock bands still creatively active, still playing today with as much, if not more energy, than they were as young men. And that might simply be because they have offered music their entire lives. Just watch and listen.

Thirty-eight years after the factafter Raw Power was released in May of 1973, The Stooges are finally being lauded as deserved. In 2010, they were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and with that began a two-year tour that culminated in the very performance filmed for this MDVD. On September 3rd, 2010, at the All Tomorrow’s Parties festival in the United Kingdom, The Stooges played their monumental and most dangerous gem, Raw Power, in its entirety to fans of all ages, many of whom were not yet born when this record was released—a testament to Raw Power operating well ahead of its time, or, arguably, without time.

From the opening notes of  “Raw Power,” with Iggy already overdosing on feedback and electric fuzz, hop-dancing out on stage to a serpentine saxophone to join the rest of the band wailing in front of an audience captivated and loose for the taking, it’s lucidly clear these guys (who are all over age 50) are—in their music—forever tossed by the open hands of time immemorial, charged from the heights to deliver a frenetic coup de grâce on every stage lying before for them.

Through the medium of rock and roll, Iggy And The Stooges paint a powerful picture; their songs pulsate in the body like the contorted sufferings of El Greco’s reeling subjects—a whirling cacophony of spiritual anguish come to physical transformation of pain into beauty. The sounds of Raw Power live exude from deep within the soul of anguish and beauty, yet far from the clutches of the hourglass of mortality netting our bodies. Raw Power is in the vim of the wayward soul searching out the unknown with the aplomb of a despot. It’s energy, alive, hungry, hunting: “Raw power honey just won’t quit.”

With a history of playing every show as if it were the very last one on earth, The Stooges cannon through their Raw Power set well beyond themselves into the pith of artistic endeavor; into the creative soul constantly shaping and re-shaping forms, perpetually leaving for the yet still unknown.

The Stooges are ever getting there, playing their songs with so much force and conviction. Hear the sound tower the crowd as they build upon song after song a monument of more—never satisfied, never to quit: “Honey I’m with you, you with me. We’re going down in history.”

Look, to get to the heart of any matter, you’ve got to find a point of entry. Looking at the Stooges from the outside in 2010, you will see an aged group of indifferent looking men content with speaking through their instruments; then follows one shirtless, cavorting wild man at the helm demanding you pay attention to him, as he flails about from side to side, contorting his body in a mad melee of fleshy origami and Christ-like mystique. This is Iggy Pop, working. These are The Stooges, destroying.

By all sensorial appearances, this night was no different from any other Stooges show. They assailed with rock and roll, taking the crowd by storm, naturally, just as they always have. The stage became their roaring soundscape, etched out of James Williamson’s legendary guitar assault, Mike Watts’ viscous, pulsing bass and Scott Ashton’s eye-of-the-storm, intuitively precise and simply brilliant drumming; and it was conquered by Iggy’s fledging orchestration.