Still raw, still powerful
Iggy Pop and the Stooges may be punk pioneers and bona fide rock ‘n’ roll icons. But just like any other band, they came to South By Southwest this week to hawk a new album.
The quintet’s fierce, nearly 70-minute showcase as part of the House of Vans at Mohawk provided a liberal sampling – actually a world premiere, as Pop pointed out to the sardine-packed club – of “Ready to Die,” the group’s first new album since “The Weirdness” in 2007 (also the last time it played at SXSW) and its first with guitarist James Williamson since the seminal “Raw Power” in 1973. Pop and company peppered nine of the new tracks into the 16-song set, resulting in a relatively tame encounter with the group seemingly more intent on delivering the songs well than on generating the mayhem that’s standard at most Stooges shows.
So there was no stage invasion by fans this time, and the shirtless Pop, still chiseled and hardly retiring at 65, was a little less manic, though he did prowl the edge of the stage throughout the show and dive into the crowd on a couple of occasions. But don’t think the Stooges – playing on a diverse bill that included the noise of Japandroids and Middle Class Rut and the ska frenzy of the Specials – have gone soft on us by any means. The “Ready To Die” material, due April 30, was as molten and Cro-Magnon as the rest of the group’s catalog, though it had more in common with the more sophisticated arrangements and textures of “Raw Power” than it did with the Stooges’ reputation-making first two releases.
Arriving right at showtime in a van that pulled right up to the club and caused some commotion on Red River St., the Stooges kicked things in off in “Raw Power” mode with that album’s title track and “Gimme Danger,” before quickly getting into the fresh fare. Exulting that “we made a fuckin’ record!,” Pop introduced the first single “Burn,” a frenetic rocker showcasing Steve Mackay’s saxophone, as a song “about scary shit like flaming assholes of life in the world and death and that shit.” “Gun” addressed one of today’s prevalent social issues, while “Beat That Guy” featured an extended solo by Williamson. “Sex and Money,” “Job,” “Dirty Deal,” “Double Ds” (about, yes, women’s breasts) and the album’s title track kept the throttle up full, while “The Departed,” a requiem for late Stooges guitarist Ron Asheton was a quiet and emotional change-up with guest Bob Hofner playing pedal steel.
The hankies weren’t needed very much on Wednesday, however, as the Stooges also ripped through a selection of older favorites such as “1970,” “Search and Destroy,” “No Fun” and an encore of “Fun House.” During an extended “I Wanna Be Your Dog” Pop told the Mohawk crowd that, “I could sing…dog songs every day for the rest of my life. I wonder how long that will be?” At this particular show there was every evidence – and certainly hope – that it will be a very long one indeed.
Beat That Guy*
Sex and Money*
I Wanna Be Your Dog
Search and Destroy
Ready to Die*
Encore: Fun House
* new songs