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Concert Review by Nick Morgan

Hammersmith Apollo, London,
May 2nd 2010

At the end of the gig, on an empty stage, Iggy Pop, like a man possessed (which frankly he had been all night) leant forward on a monitor at an impossible angle, shirtless torso arched, trousers hanging from his backside, fist punching the air.


“Let me tell you the story of this fucking record” he bellowed.  “We made the album when we were young, and they said we were shit.  But now we’re very old, and we’re going to fucking die, but before we do we came here and we played it for you”.  With that, and a few carefully pointed fingers of affection at his admirers, he turned his back to the audience, jigging like a crazy Lord of Misrule, and left the stage.  Such is the story of Raw Power, the third record cut by Iggy and the Stooges, a notable failure when it was released, but now widely considered to be one of the most important proto-punk albums.

It was recorded in 1973 by a revised Stooges line-up; guitarist Ron Asheton was demoted to bass, his brother Scott was on drums, and on guitar  James Williamson, who co-wrote all the songs with Iggy Pop.  After several break-ups and make-ups with Pop, Williamson retired from music altogether, choosing instead a career in electronics with Sony.  When the Stooges reformed in 2003 there was no place for Williamson; Asheton was back on guitar, and Mike Watt played bass. However Asheton died last year and Williamson was persuaded to give up corporate life and return to the road with his one-time partner. He certainly looks as though he might be more comfortable back in the boardroom rather than walking the boards, not that he moves around much, indeed is almost perfectly still throughout.  And while Pop has years of rock and roll excess etched on every inch of his body (most of which we get to see in the course of the night) Williamson, with his wild years well behind him, looks to have fallen victim to nothing more dangerous than a few too many executive lunches. 


Until, that is, he plays the guitar. If ‘raw power’ captures Pop’s unleashed stage performance then it also perfectly reflects Williamson’s guitar.  It’s loud.  It’s very loud.  By the end of the night it’s painfully loud; an uncompromising and unrelenting sonic assault that defined the performance just as much as Iggy’s antics.


As for Mr Pop, well I’m sure you are probably aware that he’s slowed down a lot these days, what with his UK car insurance adverts and all.  So my notes tell me that his shirt came off 1.6 minutes into ‘Raw power’, which began the set.  I didn’t actually see him launch himself into the crowd during ‘Search and destroy’, but I did see him emerge from the grasp of the adoring throng, finger aloft, and clamber back onto the stage, trousers perched at an impossible angle half way down his backside, where they remained (just) for the rest of the evening.  Clearly he’d forgotten his self imposed ban on stage-diving, as he was in and out of the audience for the rest of the evening.  Hammersmith’s finest joined him on stage for ‘Shake appeal’, where they seemed to half-dance and  half-fight their way through the song with their hero and his minder; ‘Right on motherfucker’ said Iggy to one of the last to depart, as they exchanged the by-now ritual finger signal.   His voice came and went according to his other exertions, but was particularly strong on set closer ‘Open it and bleed’, and encores ‘Fun house’, ‘Kill city’ and ‘Johanna’.  And I think he might not have been quite telling the truth when he sang ‘Cock in my pocket’, but it’s probably best not to dwell on that further. 


Simply this was everything you could have wanted from an Iggy Pop performance, a quite astonishing and exhausting (for audience and performer) show that maintained an energy level that would have been remarkable for a twenty-six year old, let alone a sixty-three-year-old veteran.  And frankly he made performers like Mick Jagger look like pussys; in the same way that Williamson’s guitar showed up the Sex Pistols (who we saw here a few years ago) to be the sham that we always knew they were.

Raw Power?  Rarely has anything been so aptly named. – Nick Morgan (photographs by Kate)

Listen: Iggy and the Stooges on myspace.

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