Live review: Iggy, Stooges stay in attack mode

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Back on his feet, the wild man punches out proto-punk classics at the Palladium.

It says everything about Iggy Pop that in an age of wireless technology he still opts for a microphone with a cord. The choice led to some serious inconveniences Thursday night at the Hollywood Palladium, where Iggy & the Stooges played the first show of a brief West Coast tour.

The 64-year-old frontman was shadowed by a cable wrangler whose job was to collect the slack created every time Iggy Pop dived into the audience; it fell to this guy, too, to prevent the cord from tripping up the 100 or so fans who joined the Stooges onstage during “Shake Appeal.” (“Occupy Hollywood!” Iggy Pop had shouted by way of instruction.) Are roadies entitled to hazard pay? The cable wrangler, his shirt tucked business-mindedly into his jeans, made a strong argument for it.

Iggy Pop’s use of the tether didn’t signal any kind of old-school chauvinism; it wasn’t wrapped up in ideas about the superior sound of vintage equipment. The singer works this way because he understands his role as an essentially theatrical one, and he knows that theater requires conflict.


So there was the microphone, straining against (but somehow never breaking free from) whatever it was plugged into. And there were Iggy Pop’s pants, inching down (but somehow never slipping off) his ropy, parenthesis-shaped form. And, of course, there was the Stooges’ music, which for 72 minutes kept threatening to veer off-course and collapse into a heap of riff and beat. It never did.

Strictly speaking, this was a different outfit than the one that played the Wiltern in 2007, after the release of a Stooges reunion record, “The Weirdness.” Ron Asheton, the band’s founding guitarist, died in 2009; he was replaced by James Williamson, who performed a similar task around the time of 1973’s “Raw Power.” (That album, like Thursday’s concert, was billed to Iggy & the Stooges.)

In addition, health problems prevented Asheton’s surviving brother, drummer Scott Asheton, from taking part in the band’s current tour, which itself had to be rescheduled after Iggy Pop broke his foot during a performance over the summer. At the Palladium, drummer Larry Mullins joined a lineup rounded out by longtime saxophonist Steve Mackay and Mike Watt, the stalwart punk bassist who’s been playing with the Stooges since they initially reunited in 2003.

None of these allowances to infirmity diminished the band’s attack in swarming proto-punk classics like “Search and Destroy” and “I Wanna Be Your Dog”; if anything, the Stooges sounded more aggressive than they have in recent years, even (or especially) during what they think of as their ballads: “Open Up and Bleed,” with a fiercely beautiful sax solo by Mackay, and “Gimme Danger,” for which Iggy Pop lowered his voice to a luscious growl.

After the “ballads,” the frontman made his first leap into the crowd, and for a few seconds he disappeared, providing yet another splash of tension.

Then he bobbed to the surface, grinning (and clutching his mike) like the unsinkable element he is.


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-- Mikael Wood