A couple matters of business to attend to before we get to Monday night’s amazing Stooges show. First, with 32.4 percent of the vote, Bob Dylan won last week’s Passover Poll to determine our favorite Jewish rocker, coming in well ahead of Lou Reed (15.6 percent) and Leonard Cohen (12.6 percent). Mazel tov, Bob! Second, the lineups for the U.S. and U.K. portions of the Al Gore-organized Live Earth concerts have just been announced. The U.S. concert will take place at Giants Stadium in New Jersey and will feature folks like Kanye West, Roger Waters and the Police. Madonna, the Beastie Boys and the Red Hot Chili Peppers will grace the stage at Wembley Arena for the London show. You can read more about the lineups, ticket prices, locations and other logistics for the July 7 concerts at the Live Earth official Web site.
Now on to more pressing concerns. Rock band reunions are always a dicey proposition. At best, reuniting bands can add a little luster to their legacy, but at worst, bands risk giving off the wretched smell of a cash grab and leaving people wondering what they were so worked up about in the first place. So it was with great apprehension that I went to Monday night’s Stooges reunion show at New York’s United Palace. That the Stooges — whose last album was 1973′s “Raw Power” — were touring behind a new album (“The Weirdness”) possessing roughly none of the wild urgency and violent chaos of the band’s classic material didn’t bode well. Neither, given that his charisma is so heavily dependent on manic energy and live-wire physicality, did my learning that Stooges frontman Iggy Pop is turning 60 later this month. But Iggy, original Stooges Ron Asheton on guitar, Scott Asheton on drums and Steve Mackay on sax, and ex-Minutemen Mike Watt on bass turned in one of the most unpredictable and exciting rock shows I’ve seen in a long, long time. I actually ended up feeling glad I’d never seen the band in its prime, because I’m pretty sure my head would have exploded.
The most amazing thing about the concert was how the Stooges managed to overcome the typical distance between a band and its audience. Punk-metal classics like “TV Eye,” “1970″ and “I Wanna Be Your Dog” churned to the beat of Scott Asheton’s elemental drumming, with Iggy’s snarled vocals and Ron Asheton’s grimy guitar playing fighting for attention. Mackay’s screaming sax work would pounce in to whip the crowd into a frenzy during the scattered moments when chairs and bodies weren’t being launched toward the stage or when Iggy wasn’t flying off it.
No doubt, this was Iggy’s show. He may not be the lean mass of muscle he once was — his gut sags a little — but he’s still far more magnetic and sexy than a prancing, skipping, strutting, shirtless soon-to-be 60-year-old dressed in almost obscenely low-slung jeans has any right to be. There’s no way that, for all their age-defying appeal, Mick Jagger or B.B. King or whoever your favorite pop-culture Peter Pan is would (or could) have created a scene like the one that happened about midway through last night’s concert: Urged on by Iggy, the crowd overran the stage, quickly enveloping the band. Iggy himself got shoved to the very edge of the stage. It looked like he might fall off — but then a web of hands clutched him from behind. Bodies writhing around him, his unseen band wailing away, Iggy just hung there in the space between the stage and the seats, clapping his hands over his head, looking like there was nowhere else he’d rather be.
– David Marchese