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    Hell for leather

    Rock’s grungiest brothers return for London’s first Stooges gig in 30 years – and no one misses Iggy

    Kitty Empire
    Sunday December 15, 2002
    The Observer

    Asheton, Asheton, Mascis and Watt
    Mean Fiddler, London NW10
    For many, rock’n’roll began with The Beatles and The Stones. For a few, though, the music had its most wild flowering in Detroit’s Stooges. Better known as Iggy And The Stooges when their frontman Iggy Pop became the focus, The Stooges formed in the late Sixties and terrorised audiences with their filthy proto-punk.

    Everything about them was confrontational. Behind Iggy Pop’s acrobatics and blood-letting, Ron Asheton’s malevolent guitar pioneered cacophony as an art form, while his brother Scott – nicknamed ‘Rock Action’ – bashed away at a series of defenceless drumkits. Narcotics and petty violence fuelled their theatre of disorder, gaining the band instant notoriety.

    Cult fame would come only later, when the punk rock of the mid-Seventies finally provided an artistic context for The Stooges’ nihilism. They made two appallingly received, commercially disastrous albums in the late Sixties before getting dropped, becoming committed junkies, and vanishing. Iggy Pop’s friendship with David Bowie resulted in their 1973 comeback, Raw Power.

    Iggy went on to become a pop star; the Asheton brothers faltered, and disappeared for roughly 25 years, while the records they made gradually became classics.

    The band that takes the stage tonight is not billed as The Stooges – only half of them are here. But really, this is a Stooges gig, London’s first since 1972. For people of a certain demeanour – sufferers of tinnitus, wearers of manky leather jackets, those mindful of rock’s function as a kind of collective cultural Id – it is almost unbearably exciting.

    Facilitating this demi-reunion are two men almost as revered in their own right as the Asheton brothers. On guitar is long-haired J. Mascis, former singer and guitarist in Dinosaur Jr, a band which in the late Eighties rekindled the Stooges’ noise aesthetic. The man charged with the role of singer Iggy Pop is bassist Mike Watt, whose hardcore punk Minutemen were early Eighties proponents of the harder-faster-louder school which the Stooges founded. The timing of this gig couldn’t be better, either.

    Raucous music played by skinny men in leather jackets is back, and much of the new decade’s rock renaissance owes a debt to The Stooges. The Strokes took their gang mentality, The Datsuns their hell-for-leather exuberance, The Libertines their appetite for destruction.

    They are simply magnificent tonight. The air thrums with anticipation as the sort-of Stooges shuffle onstage, the two portly figures in their fifties commanding a thrilled howl. What on earth will they play first? We know the set list is to be drawn from the Stooges’ first two albums – before Ron was shunted to bass for Raw Power – but it’s hard to foresee such a fierce rendition of ‘Fun House’ as the one AAM&W kick off with.

    Compared to the sound of the records, tonight’s songs are massively amplified, made viscous by Mascis’ red tide of guitar. He and Ron Asheton coax priapic, feral bursts from their instruments, their riffs utterly familiar and yet made elec tric by three decades of covers, and the occasion’s own resonance. Unlike the original Stooges, however, this unit is disciplined and honed, making ‘Not Right’ a triumph of tightly controlled unrest. Watt, particularly, is ferocious, looking like a Midwest milita man, armed and unimpressed by the US Federal government.

    He sounds very little like Iggy, but it doesn’t matter: trying to simply ape Iggy would be uncool. Watt’s rendition of anthems such as ‘1969’ and ‘TV Eye’ is at once brutal and impassioned, in his own style; ‘Loose’ and ‘Little Doll’ are suitably ugly and predatory.

    Iggy’s absence matters even less when a member of the audience is allowed onstage to do ‘No Fun’ (‘But you really gotta know it,’ stipulates Ron). Being British, our man sounds like Johnny Rotten (the Sex Pistols covered ‘No Fun’) and his word-perfect star turn is further proof that the singer was not the be-all and end-all of The Stooges.

    The Stooges are not the be-all and end-all of the night, either, as the encore throws up another reunion. Singing ‘I Wanna Be Your Dog’ is the bespectacled figure of Lou Barlow of The Folk Implosion, who originally played bass in Dinosaur Jr.

    Barlow and Mascis have despised each other for 15 years. It’s hardly a love-in, but this unlikely semi-conciliation just serves to drive home the strange and enduring power of The Stooges.



    hi there.
    thanks for the review. those stooges tributeshows are something I´d love to see!



    WOW, what a great review :mrgreen: – ammaring, thanks a lot for posting it!!!

    it’s really affectionate in an appropriate way & it deals great with the …absence of Iggy :roll:

    I really wish that I’ll have the chance to see one of those rare Stooges tribute performances :aliensmile:

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