Counting this weekend's show with the Stooges, I have seen Iggy Pop live a grand total of three times. The first time I saw the Ig-man was back in the seventies on the Lust For Life tour where David Bowie played keyboards in the band.
I confess that I went partially out of curiosity because of Iggy's reputation for doing things like cutting his chest open with glass onstage, but I mainly came to see Bowie. Within the first few minutes of that performance, I all but forgot Bowie was even there.
Iggy didn't just have a riveting stage presence — he was like a man possessed. From flinging himself face first into the crowd (this was years before stage diving became an art at grunge shows) to jamming an overhead spotlight into his face, Iggy was an absolute madman. As live performances go, it was unforgettable.
A few years later I went to an Iggy show where he incited a riot by inviting the audience onstage — who promptly tipped over the PA columns and people got hurt. Iggy was unable to perform in the city of Seattle for a number of years afterwards as a direct result of that show. Once again though, it was something you didn't soon forget.
So I was obviously stoked to see Iggy performing for the first time in thirty years with his original band, The Stooges. Stoked yes, but also just a tad bit apprehensive. Iggy's pushing sixty years old these days. He may still have that famously ripped physique that allows him to do his entire show in his trademark bare chest and ass hugging tight jeans. But lets face it, he set the bar pretty high with those shows back in the seventies, where he essentially put his life at risk on a nightly basis for the sake of his art.
So, at sixty could the Ig-man still go the distance? Amazingly, the answer was yes.
Despite the fact that Seattle's sparkling new WAMU Theatre wasn't exactly the best venue to recapture the anything goes atmosphere of rock's golden years (you weren't even allowed to duck outside for a smoke), Iggy And The Stooges rocked the stuffy new building to its rafters. The strangest thing about this show was how unbelievably tight the Stooges sounded. As fun as those Iggy shows I saw back in the seventies were, they were also always notoriously sloppy affairs — such as the one captured on the classic live Metallic K.O. album where you can clearly hear the bottles being thrown at the stage landing at the band's feet. On this night however, they sounded great.
And then there was Iggy himself. Looking ripped and surprisingly healthy given all the abuse he has subjected his body to over the years. Iggy flung himself all over the stage and dove himself into the crowd just like the good old days. Wisely sticking to the Stooges material (and avoiding latter day solo embarrassments like that "Candy, Candy" song), the Stooges ripped through the classics. And they were all there, from "I Wanna Be Your Dog" to "TV Eye" to "No Fun."
Iggy also once again invited the audience up onstage to join him, and at one point there were so many people up there you couldn't see a single member of the band. Happily, this sort of controlled chaos didn't wind up the same way it did the last time around here in Seattle. Afterwards, Iggy thanked those who got up there as members of "smelly Seattle." It was too priceless for words.
It's both tempting and easy to be skeptical of the aging "Godfather of Punk's" ability to live up to the standard he set all those years ago nowadays. But Iggy And The Stooges not only delivered the goods on this night — for once the band sounded every bit as tight as they did energized.
If Iggy And The Stooges play anywhere near you, don't miss it.