I’m seeing some of the big acts in the country for the Byron Bay Bluesfest as they do sideshows here in Sydney. Last night was – at last – my chance to see the Godfathers of Punk, Iggy and the Stooges.
First up was Beasts of Bourbon. Tex Perkins is one of those musical gems that never really made it outside Australia. I’d never heard of him until I saw him in a Johnny Cash tribute here a few years ago. But last night I became a convert to the Beasts. It was primal pub rock with punk sensibilities. Tex’s growl, the insanely loud guitar drone, and verse after chorus of profane, nihilistic blues made some of the best stuff I’ve ever heard that came out of the ’80s. I’m sorry I missed it. They opened with “Chase the Dragon“, kept the pace with songs like “I Told You So” and the newer “I Don’t Care About Nothing Anymore“, and closed with the nutty “Let’s Get Funky“.
Then, The Stooges. I remember hearing whispers about these guys from my cousins as a kid. How they were the most insane band ever, how Iggy had been institutionalised. Later I heard their music and saw how they took rock to its next, necessary evolutionary step.
I saw it written this week that The Stooges were, in the late ’60s, the first rock ‘n’ roll band to be completely devoid of any of the R&B influence, and I think that’s exactly right. It’s raucous, dangerous, everything that’s rough and scary and confrontational about rock music and nothing that’s groovy. Iggy Pop is the frontman that Mick Jagger and Jim Morrison gave birth to. Altogether ithad to spawn punk, and that gave popular rock music the shot it needed.
Last night they (and “they” has, other than Iggy and drummer Scott Asheton, changed a lot over the years) showed that The Stooges’ vision remains a pure one. And “primal” remained the word of the night. The band are all old guys but they rock hard enough that my ears are still ringing today. They provided the aggressive aural world in which Iggy Pop could writhe and taunt and scream and spit and do things that no 65-year-old ex-junkie should be able to do.
“Raw Power” and “Gimme Danger” were fun and brutal and noisy and joyous. The three-song run of “Search and Destroy“, “1970” and “Fun House” with its usual stage-dancing crowd invitation was one of the most powerful live things I’ve witnessed. Closing the main set with “I Wanna Be Your Dog” and “No Fun” was brilliant. Even new song “Burn” was pretty cool.
Here’s the band playing “1970” a little more than a year ago. Primal energy, love it or hate it: see what I mean?
Iggy and the Stooges: does what it says on the tin.
Bonus video: Iggy Pop and Tom Waits try to out-cool each other in Jim Jarmusch’s “Coffee and Cigarettes”.