THE STOOGES
Akzena Rock Festival,
Vitoria, Spain, September 12 2003

By DAVID RIPPINGDALE

The chance to see the band I have loved more than any other in the past 30 years was too good an opportunity to miss. Roy Carr’s review of Raw Power in the New Musical Express was the beginning of a long, one-way love affair, initially with Iggy and the Stooges, then with the original (Psychedelic) Stooges.

I had given up any hope of seeing the original band and contented myself with going to see the lead singer whenever he played London and on one occasion the guitarist during his stint in Destroy All Monsters. Rumours of re-unions came to nothing and the apparent animosity between Iggy and Ron lowered any expectations I had of seeing the two of them on the same stage.

I even stopped going to see Iggy as his performances and backing bands seemed to get worse each tour (the nadir being the cringingly embarrassing performance on TV of a dreadful song called "Pussy Walk" wearing see-through pants).

Fast forward a few years and I’m browsing the i94bar site and there’s news of a one-off Stooges revival, I think of heading off to LA but financial limitations put paid to this idea and I set myself the task of chasing down any bootlegs of the gig, then lo and behold more gigs are announced none in England, which seems strange given the band’s popularity here, but two in Europe and after a moment’s thought I choose the gig in Vitoria, Spain.

I set-off not knowing whether it was the right thing to do aware that I may be very disappointed and come away disillusioned (I’ve only just come to terms with the knowledge that Santa Claus doesn’t exist). The big day arrives and I find myself alone amongst a laid back crowd of Basques watching the less than inspiring warm-up acts (the exception being the excellent Cramps) at a well organised rock festival.

I get myself positioned close to the stage and wait patiently as the crew prepares the stage. For the first time I begin to feel excited, even the appearance of Scott’s drum-kit on stage – white and minimal just as it should be – pumps up the adrenaline level and after what seems to be an interminably long set from the preceding band on the other stage, the lights come on and there they are.

Iggy looks fantastic, his body taught and muscular his hair long and blonde - again just how it should be – looking about 30 years younger than the Ashetons. I’d never seen Rock Action before; he looked tired but was unmistakably Scotty, while chubby Ron with short hair now resembles your favourite uncle. I don’t look at the bass-player much but he seems cool and likeable but you can tell he’s not really a stooge (the grin gives him away). [I DISSENT - WATT HAS EARNED HIS STRIPES - AND DAVID SAYS HE WAS COMMENTING ON WATT'S DEMEANOUR, RATHER THAN HIS CLAIM TO BEING CALLED A STOOGE- ED.]

"We’re the fucking Stooges," Iggy bellows as the unmistakable intro to "1969" begins. The crowd immediately goes ballistic, I’m surprised by the reception as Northern Spain is not known as being a big rock area but there must be 25,000 plus in the crowd and they all seem to be singing the words. I’m blown away, "1969" sounds great with Iggy’s vocals completely spot-on. Loose follows, which cranks up the excitement level another few degrees and then "Down On the Street". By this time I decide to get out of the heaving masses at the front and fight my way towards the back in order to get some space so as to take in every bit of the performance. The band are playing well and tight with Iggy’s lyrics well up in the mix so that every word can be made out. I was expecting the set to be ultra-loud but it isn’t and on occasions Ron’s guitar seems to get lost especially during "Dirt".

However, the fact that the sound was not as great as it might have been and the band struggled on a couple of numbers actually made the performance more authentic and Stooge-like. Iggy broke mikes, spoke to the crowd in Spanish, danced, climbed, slid around the stage like a reptile while the Ashetons stood their ground concentrating on the music. The much under-rated Ron provided a strong, unrelenting and menacing rhythm that underpinned the whole set, Scott pounded away at the skins with Mike Watt providing a solid bass line the band was rock-solid for the most part.

"Come on Stooges," Iggy cajoled during "1970", a song that started chaotically but picked up, particularly with the arrival of Steve Mackay, bang on cue, with his brilliant sax solo. From then on the set became a bit jazzier and looser. "Funhouse" followed, then a sort of "LA Blues" blow-out which lasted a lot less than I expected. A new song followed which on first hearing sounded good, if not legendary, and provided a "Rich Bitch" moment with Iggy demanding to hear only the guitar so that Scott could pick up the beat he’d lost. Mackay stayed on sax during "Not Right", adding a new feel to an old favourite and then played bongos on "Little Doll" during which Iggy went out into the audience to play while the band kept the riff going, the rhythm becoming more and more tribal. A quick reprise of "I Wanna Be Your Dog" and they were gone.

It was okay, I wasn’t disillusioned - in fact, I felt euphoric. I’d never seen Iggy give a more convincing performance, he seemed to be enjoying playing with his old mates again ("we’re the fucking Stooges man!") and it’s the first time I’ve felt I was watching a band rather than the Iggy Pop Show. The band played great too, they were dirty and repetitive, a little sloppy in places but that’s how it should be; the Stooges played and looked just the way I’d always imagined they would. I’d love to see them again some day but the important thing is that I’ve seen them and - I know this will sound corny - right now I feel better able to face life’s drudgeries because I’ve seen the Stooges - the fucking Stooges, man!

Set List
1969
Loose
Down on the Street
I Wanna be your Dog
Dirt
Real Cool Time
TV Eye
No Fun
1970
Funhouse
LA Blues type jam
New song
Not Right
Little Doll
I Wanna be your Dog

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