I didnt think it was humanly possible for someone to be able to blow the roof off of an open-air venue, but then I saw Iggy and the Stooges play a free show in Torontos Yonge-Dundas Square.
The infamous precursors to punk rock were in town for North by Northeast, the annual hullabaloo that sees nearly every place where live music could conceivably be played in Toronto invaded by hundreds upon hundreds of acts looking for exposure. NXNE has carved out a worldwide reputation for kick-starting many a musical career, but on Saturday, June 19th, it was all about paying homage to a 63-year old whirlwind of a man and his early-70s band who had a big hand in shaping an entire music genre.
Even though the concert was free, I dont think Mr. Pop himself would have estimated as many as 30,000 people would jam-pack Yonge-Dundas Square in the heart of the city to see, as he so eloquently put it after their first three songs, the fucking remains of the fucking Stooges.
Pop, drummer and only other original Stooge Scott Asheton, saxophone player Steve Mackay, guitarist James Williamson, and bassist Mike Watt are anything but relics, however. Youd be hard pressed to find a band that energized a crowd as fiercely as they did for 90 frenetic minutes. You probably dont need me to tell you Pop was bare-chested all night, but the moment he exploded onto the stage for “Raw Power”, it was if he wrapped an imaginary, stretched out t-shirt around our collective necks, and didnt let go until the last screeching note of encore closer “No Fun”. While I had a blast, there was a second or two where I know I wasnt the only one who thought I was going to lose more than my neck. There were a few troublemakers who looked as if they were using this show to limber up for their inevitable clashes with security at next weeks G-20 summit (especially during the rousing sing-along version of “I Wanna Be Your Dog”).
In the end though, Pop brought everyone together. I didnt see much of him, seeing as how I was bouncing around like I was in a human pinball machine, but you could tell from his voice that he was clearly having a good time and reveling in the whole experience. I then turned my attention to the incredible fact that the crowd extended all the way til the doors of the Eaton Centre mall. Good thing they had closed off a section of Yonge Street, as there were people surfing a good city block away from the stage.
These so-called “last vestiges” of The Stooges ripped through 17 songs altogether, each one seemingly louder than the last. I thought their song selections did a great job of representing the band at their 1973 height, despite all the surrounding turmoil which led to their split a year later. They played material from all three of their now-classic albums, focusing mainly on the newly re-minted Raw Power. There were also some cuts from the oft-forgotten Kill City, credited to Iggy Pop and James Williamson, including the punk ballad “No Sense of Crime”, being performed for the first time ever according to Pop.
As we slowly made our way out of Yonge-Dundas Square, the swarm of people still buzzing like those World Cup vuvuzelas, I got the distinct feeling that while there were those who may have been a little disappointed over not hearing any of Pops solo efforts like “Lust for Life”, “Real Wild Child”, and The Passenger”, the prevailing sentiment was that there was nowhere else we would have rather spent the night before Fathers Day than with the legendary Godfather of Punk!
Search and Destroy
Cock in My Pocket
Instrumental jam -> Beyond the Law
I Got a Right
I Wanna Be Your Dog
Your Pretty Face Is Going to Hell
Open Up and Bleed
No Sense of Crime