That ticket burnt a metaphorical hole in my pocket for months. Finally, after a few days in LA and NYC en route, the evening came.
Now, this ATP was being held in upstate New York, at an old Catskills resort called Kutsher’s Country Club. Make no mistake, it was a shabby and shoddy rundown dive of a place, well past it’s prime at the summer resort for a certain class of New Yorker. There were some teething troubles- ticket queues were long, accommodation was a bit fucked up (I had to argue long and hard to get a key to my own hotel room) but by about 6.30 the bars were open and it was time to head into the Stardust Room (I’m not making that up) for the Scientists.
This being a “Don’t Look Back”-themed night, they give us “Blood Red River” and more. And they were good. Really good, and I say that as someone who was at the launch gig for ‘Swampland’ many many moons ago. That part of the crowd who weren’t familiar with them seem surprised and smitten, the rest of us just look happy and smug at seeing the band’s first ever US gig go off so well.
Mudhoney are up next. I’m not sure why, but they don’t do it for me as much. Nothing wrong with the set, which was based on “Superfuzz Bigmuff”, just…nothing great, you know?
There’s time for a quick beer or three out by the lake before everyone piles back in for Iggy & co. You can feel the anticipation building. There are plenty of folks here who’ve seen them before but the general air is one of expectation. I mean, this is “Raw Power” we are talking about here. Oddly, there are no barricades set up, just a few brave bouncers spread out across the room with their backs to the stage. They stare at us, wondering what to expect. We stare back at them, wondering if they know what they are in for. The James Brown tunes on the PA come to a stop, and the band are on.
Williamson and Watt seem calm as they plug in, while Iggy is in full-on mode as soon as he walks out. From where I’m standing, though, calmness goes out the window as those first chords of “Search And Destroy” ring out. Oh yes. This is what I flew all that way for. And everyone else jammed into the first few rows agrees- the place explodes.
Anyone who may have wondered if James had lost anything in his time away from rock n roll can rest easy. He’s not flashy, nor as outwardly demonstrative as Watt (who spends most of the show in a head-shaking, face-pulling frenzy) but has a kind of air of cool enjoyment, smiling at the shenanigans as he effortlessly pulls more noise out of his guitar. Is that a 12 string he’s playing during “Gimme Danger”? I can’t tell through the sweat and the lights in my eyes.
Steve Mackay is up there, too, though seems content to spend most of the time towards the back of the stage, in the shadows.
Iggy invites the crowd to shake it onstage with him for “Shake Appeal”, and there are plenty of takers. Sadly, a good number of them are fuckwits who either stand there taking pictures on their iPhones, or, worse, trying to talk to him.
You could quibble that some of these “Don’t Look Back” shows lose impact by being based on albums that were heavily loaded upfront- like, for instance, the Saints’ “Stranded”. There is no danger of that with here. All eight tunes are equally important. And if “Penetration” slows the pace a little, well, “Raw Power” itself kicks things right back into high gear.
“Death Trip” is played in the longer, false ending version familiar from Iggy’s remix of the album, and then they are gone. Not fucking likely. The crowd roars until they return for encores, and so we get a few extras- “Open Up And Bleed”, an absolutely stunning “I Wanna Be Your Dog”, with Iggy crowd surfing at every chance he gets, and finally “Funhouse”, played under plain white stage lights and the house lights, as well- this gig has gone well over time.
By the end of it, I have lost my watch, my lighter and had the shirt ripped off my back. I find my shirt, but that’s all. I decide against rummaging through the massive mound of trash- shoes, beer cups, festival guides- piled up against the stage. Some things aren’t worth it. But some- like getting to this gig- are priceless.