The world’s forgotten
boy plays Raw
Power, leaves San Francisco in ruins with the force of a
second great earthquake.
BY JUD COST
out the opening act tonight (December 4) in the lobby of the Warfield Theatre,
stuck in a narrow strait between the always mobbed bar and the long line for
the merch table, I had to endure a single-file parade of what must have been
the most, shall we say, unattractive rock ‘n’ roll audience ever assembled in
San Francisco. It easily eradicated the previous benchmark at the same venue
for Motorhead a few years back. A large crowd of people over 50 in hideous
t-shirts, bad hair and studded leather apparel is not a pretty sight. But make
no mistake about it, these were Iggy’s People.
Pop had the common sense to sprint onstage in no shirt whatsoever. Of course,
the Ig still has the chiseled bod to pull it off as he approaches his first
Social Security check next spring. And “the world’s forgotten boy”
still has all the double-jointed moves of his youth, as he visits San Francisco
once again to play the show that was canceled in September when he broke a leg
falling off stage (hopefully, not after some misguided soul told him to
“break a leg” before he went on that night).
is not the “I Wanna Be Your Dog” Stooges of Elektra Records fame.
This is the current version of Iggy and the Stooges with a silver-haired James
Williamson on lead guitar, Mike Watt on bass and Steve McKay on tenor sax;
tonight, subbing for Scott “rock action” Asheton, who is ailing, is
Larry Mullin on drums. The lineup is playing the repertoire of the similar
outfit who last appeared here at Bimbo’s 365 Club in January of 1974, right
after the release of their wallpaper-peeling Raw Power album. It’s a triumphant reprise of one of the most
skull-grinding sounds ever created in a recording studio. And, unlike the
top-heavy, all-bass mess of the 2007 appearance of the original Stooges (same
joint), they nailed the sound tonight, a remarkable feat since it entailed the
equivalent of getting a good board mix of an erupting volcano. Indoors.
immediately violated rock-show rule number one – Never play your best stuff
first – by launching earsplitting versions of “Raw Power” and the
album’s piece de resistance,
“Search And Destroy,” right off the bat. Since the death of James Brown,
Iggy is now undeniably “the hardest working man in show business,”
and the second hardest are the dozen black-shirted, beefy guys assigned the
task of keeping Iggy alive one more night, in spite of himself. As a demented
force of nature, there is no way you can stop our boy from running full-tilt
like an NFL linebacker into a gigantic stack of amps, hard enough to almost
knock them over. All you can do is limit the peripheral damage and keep rock’s
MVP off the Injured Reserve list.
picks up an industrial-strength mic-stand and swings it full-force into the
stage floor, like a lumberjack chopping wood, and a black-shirt restores it to
its upright position. Iggy picks up the mic-stand again and hurls it across the
stage like a javelin. Or he dumps half a plastic bottle of water on the stage
floor before spinning it like a discus into the adoring mob, and a black-shirt
is johnny on the spot to mop up his mess with a towel to prevent electrocution.
boy says very little, but when he points at some (imaginary, believe me)
good-looking girl in the sea of gyrating spectators and screams, “You, the
blond! You’re real pretty, but your pretty face is going to hell!” that’s
the signal that the next song will be “Your Pretty Face Is Going To
Hell.” After half an hour of coyly tapping the hands of fans in the front
row, Iggy decides it’s time to get closer to the unwashed masses, sprints to
the front of the stage with the force of long-jump Olympic champ Bob Beamon and
dives face-down into the horde with the Gold Medal style points of high-diver
their credit, no one tears off a limb as the ultimate souvenir of this
“streetwalking cheetah with a heart full of napalm.” The crowd
eventually carries him, like some Egyptian deity, close enough to the stage
where a black-shirt can grab him by the back of his pants, exposing secondary
cleavage, and hoist him back on the stage. Iggy climbs to an alcove stage right
and actually reclines for a few moments like an ancient Assyrian warrior posing
for a frieze now hanging on the walls of the British Museum.
But that’s it for his R&R tonight. Time to return to the fray.
most of Raw Power now dispensed with,
the boys light up the vintage “I Wanna Be Your Dog,” and Iggy gets
“right down in his favorite place,” on the floor. Never sedentary for
long, he jumps up and, with one arm tucked behind his opposite shoulder in a
chiropractor-defying move, urges everyone to join him onstage for a group dance
to “Shake Appeal.” No one needs a second invitation. Thirty seconds
later, the stage is crawling with writhing bodies like the plague of locusts
that once invaded Salt Lake City.
When the song is over, they quickly return to the mosh pit with no one needing
to be tossed into space like a loaf of yesterday’s stale bread.
verdict of all three judges is unanimous: At the end of the night, Iggy Pop
retains his welterweight world championship belt as “the runaway son of
the nuclear A-Bomb.” It was something you may never see again. In spite of
all the near misses, apparently no one had to be carted off to intensive care.
It was everything you could want from Iggy Pop. It was “soul radiation in
the dead of night.” It was “love in the middle of a fire fight.”
Wouldn’t have missed it for anything.
Credit: Bese Zoltan/via Iggy and the Stooges on Facebook]