Stooges Live (2003)

Originally published August 2003 for New Music Express.

The Stooges
Sonic Youth
Von Bondies

Clarkston, Michigan (aka NOT DETROIT)
Monday, August 25, 2003

Iggy demanded the house lights be eliminated from the stage. “Blackout! Blackout!” he howled as the riff from Fun House’s “TV Eye” pierced the humid night. As a song-closer, Iggy called out to the now united thousands in attendance at the grassy-amphitheater: “We are the FUCKIN’ STOOGES!”

Introductions aside, the “original” reunited Stooges—guitarist Ron Asheton, drummer / brother Scott Asheton, bassist Mike Watt (Minutemen / Firehose) filling for the departed Dave Alexander and saxophonist Steve Mackay, from the original Fun House sessions—seemed to be as passionate about their audience’s delusion as their fans could rightfully expect on a Monday night. And after the disciplined but dry, one-riffed barrage of the Von Bondies and the more mature than staggering O’Rourke version of the Youth, it was clear who really knew how to play minimalist sludge for an audience of (now aging, predominantly suburban) derelicts.

Though no chests were slit with glass (at least on stage) there were a number of vintage moments, including a stage-heist from the first ten rows during “Real Cool Time,” and an ironic pelting of the band with $7 plastic-cupped beers starting with, “I Wanna Be Your Dog.”

Both the band’s obvious aging and the concert’s environment—the hinterlands of Clarkston sure ain’t the Michigan Palace in Detroit—kept the show away from true revelation. But on a muggy evening in August with dozens of people on stage dancing and sweating and a shirtless, atrophied Iggy threatening to “dance to the back of the lawn,” one could be excused for allowing the familiar fear to kick in one more time.