Sunday, April 15, 2007

Tragedy Befalls the Stooges at Fox Theater...

Sticking piously to the age-old dictum "revenge is a dish best served cold" the Scorpions biker gang showed up at the Fox Theater Friday night and unleashed a firestorm of verbal and physical abuse on the visibly flustered reunited rock band Iggy and the Stooges.

Still-seething after Iggy and company's inflammatory performance February 5, 1974 at the Rock and Roll Farm in Wayne, the Scorpions (despite much baiting on WABX from the Ig himself) chose to avoid the Stooges ersatz "final show" on February 9th and without the formidable foes Iggy floundered onstage through remedial renditions of "Louie, Louie" and other shit Metallic K.O. makes you wish you'd forgotten.

There was no question the Scorpions would avoid the August 25th Stooges reunion show in 2003 (a national CPA convention in Seattle found most of the gang pre-occupied) but showing up at the Fox was totally unexpected. They collectively unleashed a hail of beer bottles, rotten fruit, laptops, car batteries and the like. One particularly portly Scorpion, slightly resembling guru Rick Rubin, made his way onto the stage, commandeered the microphone and bellowed "Iggy and the fucking Stooges…YOU FUCKING DIE!" before tackling Iggy and beating him into a bloody ball of flesh.

But up until that point, the night was sublime.

I'd held off on fully forming an opinion of The Weirdness until experiencing the songs off it in the live arena. And as unused to them as I was, those songs held up. "Trollin'" was catchy and had me yelling its title later in the night in front of the abandoned United Artists theater. How come no one's brought up how "My Idea of Fun" is strongly reminiscent of Sonic Youth's "Sugar Kane"? Not only is that a great reference point, but the lyrics themselves are yet another in a long line of Iggy doublespeak. To me, it's unclear whether Iggy's idea of fun is, simply, killing everyone OR Iggy's idea of fun is something else (Quaaludes, hop-scotch, cliff-diving, ghost-riding, chainsaw juggling) and that activity in turn is killing everyone. Hearing "My Idea of Fun" on local modern rock radio feels like some strange victory…Scott's sweet pre-solo drum fill making way for Ron's searing licks along with Iggy barking "I hate mankind" in a wonderfully sophomoric Flipper sort of way on the airwaves alongside My Chemical Romance or Fall-Out Boy is all the proof you need for the clear lack of relevance of those bands.

First obligatory Matt Smith quote: "The Weirdness is not the follow-up to Funhouse. It's the follow-up to Metallic K.O." Whatever dude.

As much as I surprisingly dug the new jams, this oldies act would be nothing without their back catalog. Thing is, I've seen the reformed Stooges a bunch…the DTE Show in '03, Primavera Festival in Barcelona in '05 and all across Australia during the Big Day Out Festival in '06. The DTE show was instantly legendary while Spain was kind of a downer and Australia fluctuated (Hank Rollins at the side of the stage every night, nerding out like you wouldn't believe) with Melbourne (or Detroit South as it has been known) sticking out as the best of that bunch.

The songs off the self-titled album were good, but left me thinking something was missing. Did the juice in those songs lie in Ron's overdubbed solos which (with one guitar player) are difficult to replicate without losing the rhythm? I think so.

But saving the day was Steve Mackay. I think this guy is really the secret behind the success of these reunion gigs. He adds squawky balls where needed and frees up Ron to shred. Just like I remembered from Australia, Steve waltzes on-stage unannounced and COMPLETELY NAILS his first four notes on "1970 (I Feel Alright)" exactly as they sound on Funhouse. And everything else after that is like he's shooting smoke on his fingers. And with his full head of hair (opposed to his usually short locks) he looks just as bad ass as his photo in the deluxe Funhouse re-ish.

Second obligatory Matt Smith quote: "Sax was heavy."

Iggy's vocal take on "1970" was interesting…he tossed in some of his swaggering croon on the "burn my heart"/"fall apart" couplet and the inflection actually added an impressive new dynamic like that old dog lucked into some new tricks…like the bashing of his vocal mic into the main house speakers creating an exciting and thud that rang sonorous throughout the ornate cupola of the Fox.

I dug Mike Watt's amp hump in "LA Blues". His overall lack of tossing jazz into songs originally performed by a guy who continually managed to play the bass like he'd never picked one up before was appreciated.

The lack of "Little Doll" in the setlist didn't bum me out as much as I thought it would. But I would really like to see them tackle "Ann" and toss on the frenetic "Dance of Romance" ending as featured on the deluxe double disc edition of the first album. But that's me just being fanboy. Though I still think "We Will Fall" could really bring down the house.

The Stooges are the last band of their kind. As has been noted before, in their day they attracted a degenerate crowd of convicts, junkies, bikers and overall deviants as if they were the only game in town for them weirdos. The thing is, I don't think any band this day and age would be able to recreate that kind of following with the Stooges kind of sound. There's just too much oddball stuff out there nowadays that's easily accessible…bands like Lightning Bolt and Wolf Eyes get written up in Spin and all the real nut-cases are currently into black metal and drone. But the Stooges still attract a majority of their old crowd. Sans the Scorpions there were a bevy of hard ass take-no-shit motherfuckers in the room. I was honestly a bit on edge and scared knowing that just about anything could happen yet not knowing what exactly would happen.

But that's one of the base principles of rock and roll. There should be an unexpected element. Surprise even. Add to that a feeling of fear…remember, this was a music that originally scared people and it's always important to keep a dose of that in the mix.

You could smell it in the air, you knew shit was going to go down. That it would come in the form of an Altamont-worthy beating delivered by one of the Scorpions on Iggy was unexpected. While their DTE show is arguably the best live music performance I have ever witnessed, the Fox Theater was a stellar example for everyone in attendance on how to do it right.

Side note: Anyone else hear the story of how ? and the Mysterians were supposed to open this show? (First off…would that not have been badass? Both bands together only missing one original member? On Woodward Avenue in downtown Detroit? Excuse me while I climb into my time machine. I think Powertrane is unexciting and tired while Scott Morgan should stick to singing soul in the Solution.)
Anyturd, word on the street was that the Stooges offered the slot to ? and company and whoever was negotiating for the Mysterians (manager? Booking agent? I don't know) accepted with the caveat that their teenaged niece could come out and perform a song with the Stooges. Needless to say, the Stooges respectfully(?) declined and ? and the Mysterians missed out on a prime chance to play in front of a big crowd and possibly make some dough in the process. Please, someone tell me this is just a cruel rumour.


Anonymous said...

is this ben's foray into journo-fiction?

alex said...

those bikers sure don't forget anything! i'd like to think from my ignorant, retrospective point of view that it was a love-hate reival of hostilities :P

also: hooray for Melbourne, guess all those (in)toxicants in the air do wonder for an aging rockstar's act.

Luke said...

How Gonzo. Glad I finally got to meet you. I was just wondering what your thoughts on the show were. Love the writing. This whol deal should be imported to MT's apparently dead blog.

Anonymous said...

i just flashed on it last night, while sober.

"my idea of fun is killing everyone" is not that HIS idea of "fun" is the action of "killing everyone". it's that somebody's (USA?) idea of fun is killing everyone.

dissertation, anyone?

maria said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
maria said...

yes to "anne" and "little doll." and i'm only half kidding when i say i was secretly holding out for "we will fall" as the encore.

Anthony said...

We Will Fall would have been an amazing encore.

I highly enjoyed that show, and ? would have been a much better opener, as I would have actually, y'know... clapped.

I've been scouring Youtube like crazy for some No Fun video.

Anonymous said...

This is a fucking crime.
I get to read this good shit for free!!!
Meanwhile the shitty magazines are writing the same crap for the past 15 years. Just different pretty faces.


Anonymous said...

I heard it wasn't the manager's niece, by in fact her boyfriend, Gary Rasmussen who she was foisting on the Stooges in order to get ? and the Mysterians on the bill. Stooges heard about ?'s house fire and wanted to help him by offering the opening slot but the manager started making demands that Gary play bass with the Stooges. Thankfully the Stooges declined as I think Mike Watt is a great asset to the live show.

Christopher said...

This is a shame, it was not wise for ? to miss that bill. Chalk one up for management...not.

Anonymous said...

Shit, I'd be interested in Gary R. on the bass instead of Minuteman overplaying Maniac but that ain't the way its shaken out now is it?

would you rather see Iggy with one of those shitty backup bands from the last 25 years OR with his chums the Asheton Bros.????

thought so.