As the opening credits of this grand new MVD Visual DVD state, “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 Pop himself. But the result is mountains above and beyond the ultimate DIY epic for Generation YouTube: What we have here 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-style 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 fun house; 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”; 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 record collection; and Matt Goldman, curious to know exactly what happened after each original Raw Power master was faded out on its initial vinyl release.
Then we’re 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 that 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 Pop invites the audience — that is, as many as the startled security staff will allow — to join his Stooges onstage for “Shake Appeal” (I wonder if Samuelson made it this time?). The accompanying mosh-eye view offers all the unmistakable cinematic aesthetics of OWS police 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 Pop doesn’t return the favor by leaping off the stage, in his own inimitable way, until 20 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 Pop’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 things alive and honking.
“Beyond the Law,” “I Got a Right,” “I Wanna Be Your Dog” and an encore “Fun House,” wherein Pop 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 44 minutes of post-gig interviews with Pop, Williamson and Scott Asheton to enjoy, during which we discover the “template” for “Death Trip” was none other than Frankie Ford‘s 1959 hit “Sea Cruise” … not to mention Mr. Goldman learning all about those notorious fadeouts, too.
It must go without even saying that Raw Power, to say nothing of Iggy Pop himself, 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 immediately be awarded a trunkful of Oscars for their work, I do say.
So grab and watch Raw Power Live immediately, I do implore, and help make it the Yuletide standard it so very richly deserves to be.
— Musician/writer Gary Pig Gold is the co-founder of the To M’Lou Music label.