Please pardon my self-indulgent reflection for a moment; I took a break from technology for the past two days and had some fun. Seattle's annual Bumbershoot music festival closed on September 5, 2005 with a performance by The Stooges. I was excited and apprehensive at the potential of the reunion, rounded out by Mike Watt of The Minutemen on bass (in place of the late Dave Alexander). I wasn't even born when The Stooges carved out their place in music history. More than thirty years later, these aren't kids from Michigan with something to prove.
Iggy Pop continued to perform with intermittent releases over the years after a mid-Seventies disappearance, but nothing he did ever lived up to the memory of The Stooges that captivates the forever-15 audience of punk rock fans. When Iggy climbed Mike Watt's duct-taped bass amp midway through show opener, Loose, kicking the amp with his heels only to see the tape removed a short time later by a stage hand; I was sure we were in for a night of contrived remembrance of performance past.
Two songs later, with the groove behind 1969 swinging into gear, my mind was changed. For a few moments at least, it was 1969 (or The Stooges version of it anyway). The band was tight, probably sounding better than they ever did in their drug-infused heyday. I Wanna Be Your Dog followed, with TV Eye close behind. Somewhere in the set Dirt found its way into the mix, but it's becoming a blur. Between prancing and flailing about the stage, it almost looked like Iggy would leap into the crowd, coming up short when he realized he couldn't clear the security barrier.
During Fun House, Iggy did something completely unexpected, inviting fans to the stage, after an expletive-filled exchange with show security. He even briefly stopped the song. There were easily 100 fans on stage before the end of Fun House. As far as I could tell no one got hurt. At the end of the song, the show paused long enough to direct the dancers back to the crowd with the rest of us; Iggy ushering everyone safely back with encouragement on the microphone. To me, that was cool. I hate arena shows because there's no connection between the musicians and the audience. In music intimacy is everything; intimacy and the space between the notes. At least for some fans, The Stooges managed to make that connection, which extended to the rest of us who weren't on stage.
If memory serves me correctly, Dead Rock Star from a 2003 pseudo-comeback album followed Fun House. I left at that point, satisfied with hearing the best of The Stooges and not interested to see if the show would continue down the path of newer material I feel no connection to.
I'm sure this show wasn't the same as being there for the early days of Iggy Stooge, with bottles flying at the stage and self-mutilation as performance art. I certainly doubt a time machine would reveal people holding balloon animals in The Stooges crowds of old. Maybe The Stooges do still have something to prove. Aside from Iggy Pop with his bleach blonde surfer locks and disturbingly-taut musculature writhing on stage, the rest of the band could easily pass for someone's dad in the Pike Street Market. Of course, no one's watching the rest of the band and they still sound amazing; the illusion remains intact.