To celebrate James Newell Osterberg Jr.’s 71st (!!) Birthday on April 21st, I popped into the trusty ol’ Pig Player a DVD whose opening credits state, and I quote, “On September 3, 2010, Iggy and the Stooges performed Raw Power live in Monticello, New York. Six fans filmed the concert and interviewed Iggy and the Stooges after the show.”
Really then! A concept so crystalline in both its simplicity and beauty – much like Iggy himself. But the result is mountains above and beyond the ultimate DIY epic for Generation YouTube: What we see is a real-time and, of course, real LOUD (thanks in no small part to the work of audio recordist Max Bisgrove) down ‘n’ dirty antidote to all those precious Jonathan Demme-godded concert films regularly being awarded art-house praises and prizes.
Raw Power Live: In The Hands Of The Fans is in fact, with all apologies to The TAMI Show, the best on-screen rendering of rock ‘n’ roll I have ever seen.
First off, we introduce the six esteemed camera(wo)men/filmmakers themselves:
Nick Esposito, surrounded by Stoogephelia galore inside his very own funhouse showing off “rare, out-of-print French vinyl” (with picture sleeve!),
Edwin Samuelson, who has seen the Stooges six times in concert (and jumped on stage with them four of those six times),
Stephen Schmidt, who describes himself as “somewhere between a Stooges fan and a Stooges historian” (and wonders how the band ever got from John Coltrane and Harry Partch all the way over to “Search and Destroy”) (simple, answers Iggy: “All the great black and hillbilly artists had been ripped off already”),
Britt Clardy, a 23-year-old film student from Denton, Texas who looks all the world to be a long-lost refugee from Blue Cheer,
Amy Verdon, pacing excitedly amongst her most impressive indeed floor-to-ceiling vinyl,
and Matt Goldman, curious to know exactly what happened after each original Raw Power master was faded out on its initial vinyl release (again, Iggy explains “There was a point in time when to hear a good, memorable song was like” – expectant pause – “an alien visitation. It was ‘Oh my god, it came in! Where did it come from? Nobody knows!’ And it came, and it put that message in your brain and then” – even more dramatic pause – “it disappeared. And for me, that was the point of the fade out: To make the song disappear as the message is being repeated in your brain”) (and, to demonstrate, Iggy sings a note-perfect chorus of the Ronettes’ “Be My Baby” straight into Matt’s startled face).
But enough of this yakkin’! It’s time to cut straight to, in bassist Mike Watt’s words, the small Borscht-belt town of Monticello and a pad called Kutsher’s for this 70-minute concert rendition of Raw Power and then some which is both furious and fabulous in both its, well, power and rawness. I mean, what else can one expect from a set list which kicks completely off with “Raw Power,” “Search and Destroy,” “Gimme Danger” and then “Your Pretty Face Is Going To Hell,” I ask you?!
Next though, things get even more raw as Iggy invites the audience – that is, as many as the startled security staff will allow – to join his Stooges on stage for “Shake Appeal” (I wonder if Edwin Samuelson made it this time?). The accompanying mosh-eye-view offers all the unmistakable cinematic aesthetics of your standard riot police surveillance footage …that is, until Mr. Pop asks “the talented and personable New York State dancers” to exit at song’s end (and, in true New York State fashion, few oblige).
It should be noted however that Iggy doesn’t return the favor by leaping off stage, in his own time-tested inimitable way, until twenty seconds into “Death Trip.” But by then we’ve already been treated to a deliciously cheesy/sleazy rendition of “I Need Somebody” which would not sound one inch out of place in that peeler bar a block behind your local bus station. James Williamson’s trademark teeth-pulling guitar work reaches all new depths of delight on both this and the Sun Ra-by-way-of Mothers of Invention “Night Theme” which follows Iggy’s refreshing mid-“1970 (I Feel Alright)” Evian water bath. P.S.: Special mention must be made here to accompanying saxman-in-the-shadows Steve Mackay for helping keep the John Coltrane/Harry Partch portion of the equation alive and honking.
“Beyond the Law,” “I Got A Right,” “I Wanna Be Your Dog” (complete with completely crazed audience sing-along) and an encore “Fun House” wherein Iggy delivers “a message to Heaven; to James Brown: Hey James? Lemme in!” and quicker than it all started there’s just “No Fun” left for the good citizens of Monticello.
But we the viewer still have forty-four minutes of post-gig interviews with Iggy, James and Scott “Rock Action” Asheton to enjoy, during which we discover the “template” for “Death Trip” was none other than Frankie Ford’s “Sea Cruise” …not to mention Mr. Goldman learning all about those notorious fade-outs, of course.
It must go without even saying that Raw Power, to say nothing of Iggy Pop himself, still seems to have aged not one iota since those g(l)ory days of ’73. But what is surprising is just how perfectly this film captures every grunt, howl and lambaste of the original’s pointed purpose, doing both the landmark album and its creators more than proud. Director/editors Joey Carey and Luis Valdes should’ve immediately been awarded a trunkful of Oscars for bravely adhering to Iggy’s “Fuck the dramatic hocus-pocus” edict throughout their production, I do say.
Because, as no less an authority as the head Stooge Himself proclaims, “This shit really sizzles and we are so obviously a crack band in a class of our own.”
Raw Power Live is the live, living proof. Why not watch it yourself today, and on each and every ballbusting April 21st we may still have left.