Friday, February 24, 2012

DVD Review: Iggy and the Stooges: Raw Power Live

Text © Robert Barry Francos/FFanzeen, 2012
Images from the Internet

Iggy and the Stooges: Raw Power Live – In the Hands of the Fans
Directed by Joey Carey and Luis Valdes
MVD Visual, 2011
81 minutes, USD $16.95

I am just going to assume that whoever is reading this is a Stooges fan – as well you should be – and does not need for me to go into a history of the band, other than some comments here and there to explain the DVD. Okay with you? Great, let’s get started.

Apparently the In the Hands of the Fans idea is catching on and it is becoming a series; I know of another one about Dinosaur Jr. playing their album, Bug. The premise is simple enough: hold a contest to find half-a-dozen devotees to send video contributions about themselves in relation to the band via various social media. The winners get to meet the Stooges and do an interview, then are handed cameras and they film the show. The footage is later edited together into a flow.

The DVD starts off with clips of some of the winners’ entries, most of them the nerdy, rock’n’roll obsessed type (i.e., like me). One asked a great question which I’m sure got him in: nearly all of the songs on Raw Power fade out, so what happens after that point, when the songs are played live? From there we go to the concert, filmed at the All Tomorrow’s Parties Festival, held at Kutsher’s Country Club (at one time a center of Jewish Catskills comedy and music) at Monticello, NY, on September 3, 2010.

At this festival, the revamped Stooges (James Williamson continuing as replacement for the late Ron Ashton; Scott Ashton on drums; and ex-Minutemen / fIREHOSE – among others – Mike Watt on bass; with Iggy Pop as always in front) decided to perform their seminal LP, Raw Power all the way through, though not in the same order. However, they don’t end there, and play a number of their other hits, including “I Wanna Be Your Dog.” They even mine some in the early post-Stooges Bomp! years (when Williamson came on board). The set list is below.

Part of what is thrilling about this DVD is that it’s the entire concert, rather than just the songs. With the crisp sound and multiple camera work – even though done by amateurs – the viewer gets a full experience of being at the show. Thanks for that!

[Digression paragraph: I only saw Iggy twice, once at the Palladium, off Union Square, in 1977 (backed by the Hunt Brothers; dad Soupy introduced the band and got as much of an ovation as did the band), and another time in the 1980s playing at the more intimate Brooklyn Zoo, a club for a moment in Sheepshead Bay (the Helen Wheels Band opened, if I remember correctly). During the show, someone threw some ice at the Pop-ster, who stopped mid song and firmly stated, “Don’t throw ice at me, motherfucker. This isn’t a request, it’s a command.” He then started the song over from the beginning. They were both great shows. Okay, I’m back now…]

Bathed in blue and red lights, Iggy still manages to keep the energy level high, even at age 63, bouncing around the stage like a marionette on the strings of someone yanking him around. Yeah, Ewan McGregor did a great impression of him in Velvet Goldmine, but there are very few who can command like Iggy when it comes to stage presence. His voice is still in top form, and he knows how to manipulate the willing audience into a frenzy. Total fun (as opposed to “No…”). He is completely at ease with the crowd, and it is amusing how every once in a while he will leaned into the assembly as if to body surf, and some of the club’s security lean over and pull him back in, sometimes by the belt . The security also does a thorough job making sure no one else takes the stage, with the exception of during the song “Shake Appeal,” where Iggy cajoles, “I want dancers, I want spazzers, I want freaks. Get up on the stage with the fuckin’ Stooges. Let ‘em up! We got a dance number, and we need volunteers.”

Even on some of the slower, mid-speed songs like “Penetration” and “Gimme Danger,” there is a force field that waves out from the band, giving these songs no less power than the faster ones. Of course, the main reason is the singer, but it doesn’t stop there. Williamson remains a powerhouse of a guitarist, and a perfect replacement for Ron. He wields a strong ax and isn’t afraid to flail with it. His solos are so different than, say, Jimmy Page, with more intense and terse sounds that are never boring (as some solos can be, such as by, oh, let’s say Jimmy Page). Scott pounds the skins fiercely. While he is a rhythm drummer rather than a “wildman,” he gives the tunes the backing they need, as does Watt, a way underrated bassist. Despite an injured leg (which one would never know by watching the show), he nearly crouches down and follows Iggy’s every move and command (reminding me of Tina Weymouth, of Talking Heads, back in the ‘70s, as she stared nearly unblinking at David Byrne). His bass strumming is amazing to watch and hear. Joining the band is Steve Mackay on tenor sax, who was also an instrumental part of the Stooges era. He shares an interesting atonal exchange with Watt at the end of “1970 (I Feel Alright).”

The crowd is really into the music, which makes the show all the better (though there is some fool towards the front holding up a clear plastic pint beer cup distracting from the action, and I’m sure annoying the people around him/her).

One of the reasons why the Stooges are considered the godfathers of punk (among others) is that the songs are based on stark chords rather than classically straight melodies, and while appearing simple, are actually quite complex. For example, “I Wanna Be Your Dog,” always one of my fave riffs, is played faster than on the record, except for the interlude. Plus, it’s easy to tell that the band is having fun, which is transmitted to the viewers, both at the show and those at home.

After the show, Iggy’s allowed to body surf (see the DVD cover, above), and we are introduced to the camera people and we see which angles are whose in the show, a nice touch indeed.
The extras are quite interesting here. The main part is the interviews the six winners do with the band backstage, in shifts of three. For 43 minutes (additional above the 81-minute concert time) we hear some great - and others bizarre - questions from the group, and Iggy, as always, proves himself to be quite articulate. For example, he explains that the origin of “Death Trip” is actually taken from the much covered chestnut, “Sea Cruise.” Watt does a great talking ramble (always has), and Williamson and Ashton seem like they don’t really seem comfortable, but actually give some great answers anyway.

Also included, of course, are most of the full videos sent in by the winners. Additionally, there is also a promo for the contest hosted by the great Handsome “Dick” Manitoba (hey, how about a Dictators In the Hands of the Fans reunion for Go Girl Crazy? I would so love that).

The liner notes are long, written by Watt in his wonderful meandering style, with insight, humor, and intelligence.

So, if you’re a street walkin’ cheetah who wants to be a dog coz your pretty face is going to hell, you just have get this excellent document. Even if you turn the picture off and just listen to the soundtrack, it’s worth the death trip.

Set List (original album):
Raw Power (Raw Power)
Search and Destroy (Raw Power)
Gimme Danger (Raw Power)
Your Pretty Face is Going to Hell (Raw Power)
Shake Appeal (Raw Power)
I Need Somebody (Raw Power)
Penetration (Raw Power)
Death Trip (Raw Power)
1970 (I Feel Alright) (Fun House)
Night Theme (Kill City)
Beyond the Law (Kill City)
I Got a Right (I Got a Right)
I Wanna Be Your Dog (The Stooges)
Open Up and Bleed (Open Up and Bleed)
Fun House (Fun House)
No Fun (The Stooges)

Rent it here.

No comments:

Post a Comment