Raw Power: The Stooges Mix Punk & Coltrane in Detroit

Posted In: Arts & Entertainment, National Music, Concert Reviews,   From Issue 636   By: Moe Stooge

26th April, 2007     0

Detroiters are loyal. While much of their city has eroded away, there still exists a core group of Detroiters who remember, somewhat hazily, the fact that Detroit created more kinds of music, and more good music, than any other American city. 

While you may not recognize them today, back then Detroiters led the nation in discovering, and making stars out of Peter Frampton, J. Geils, Bob Seger, MC5, the Who, Led Zeppelin, Kiss, Deep Purple, and more Motown stars than you can possibly count.

A perfect example of this fact emerged on the stage at the Fox Theatre on Woodward (itself an elaborately ornate reincarnation of the past grandeur of Detroit) when the Stooges appeared at a sold out show on an overcast yet pumped up Friday.

Note I did not say "Iggy"appeared, nor did I did say "Iggy and the Stooges"- for this was the original band: Iggy Pop, Ron Asheton, and Scott Asheton, just as they might have walked out in a high school gym in 1969.

Of course, the minute they hit the stage, the crowd roared its approval and jumped to its feet, staying there for the rest of the night.
Any why should they not? Everything they asked for was on stage: Big hulking Marshalls, a song set which consisted of almost nothing but the first two albums, and most of the amps dialed up to 10.

Since it's been a while since I've seen the show-and that's assuming I have seen it before- (you never know, a boomer's memory can play many tricks) - it's always a shock when Mr. Osterberg takes the mike. One week shy of 60, he's part rocker, part street bum, and partŠ.scorpion? circus freak? escape artist?

Despite 40 years of abuse, he can still fit in the 28-inch jeans and crawl on top of the amplifiers like Jim Morrison could only dream of at 30. The songs come at you fast and furious, ala the Ramones, but I think you already know who invented this machine gun delivery.

And boy, did they come out fast: I Wanna Be Your Dog, No Fun, TV Eye, 1969, Raw Power (incidentally, supposedly Kurt Cobain's favorite album) and all the others songs you either loved or hated. There was, and still is, no middle ground, when it comes to the Stooges, whether you first bought in on vinyl, CD, i Tunes, or a download. Join the club or get the hell out, just leave the beer.

Rounding out the Asheton brothers was bass player Mike Watt and sax man Steve Mackay, who's sparse but brutal sound seemed to refresh and renew both the band and the crowd. 

The Iggster, of course, was not going to let down this hometown reunion. While they did have a set at DTE in 2003 that still holds record as the best-unrehearsed live show ever seen in Auburn Hills, that was a happening, and this was a coronation.
Detroiters needed to telegraph their appreciation to the band that single-handedly invented punk, and the band, true to form, refused to acknowledge any praise whatsoever. The songs spoke for themselves.

If Iggy said more than 20 words the entire evening, I missed it. He let the music, and the performance, deliver a grudging thank you.  A leap into the crowd found plenty of willing bodies to break the fall, which wasn't always the case during the early years, even here. There was no peanut butter, broken glass, or high invective. Oddly enough, there was a mass sing along on stage, evoking more Woodstock than Altamont. 

Unfortunately, it was discovered later that the first soul to venture on the stage for this "spontaneous" event was the same dude who led the sing along at DTE. No matter. It was still fun to see the chaos, the brotherhood, and the security detail freaking out.

And the crowd? Loving it. While you can book 10 Bob Segers to one Stooges in Detroit, the fact is both bands, among many others, still got the chops and still deliver the goods. Doesn't sound tough to do? Have you ever had to endure a "reunion " show by the desiccated Beach Boys? Even a recent CSNY show at the Palace was saved solely by Neil Young. It ain't that easy.

So, for two hours on an overcast Friday night, Detroiters could close their eyes, inhale deeply, cruise down Woodward, grow their hair back, shed 50 pounds and a boatload of inhibitions, and remember when.

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