The Stooges, Sonic Youth
Long Island, New York
August 8, 2003


As unlikely a locale and colossal-size venue (the strip mall-laden, eternally time-warped, pathetic Long Island and its waterfront “Tommy Hilfiger Theater”) for this super-rare convening of the preeminent proto-punk quasi-damaged institution (The Stooges) and long-running, central art rock experimentalists (Sonic Youth), begged the ultimate question as the space was filled to less than half its capacity: why wasn’t this monumental pairing showcased somewhere – anywhere – in New York City? The answer probably lies in record company politics, Clear Channel’s blatant controlling of the industry (everything seems to be their fault these days, so why not blame them?) or maybe Iggy’s preference really is the beach (he does reside in Florida). But never mind all this trivial bullshit. For those fortunate ones able to make the arduous trek out to Nowhere-land, we were treated (okay, not exactly “treated” – ticket prices were indeed outrageous) to the fucking apotheosis of a concert seen in any part – for ages.

The last time Sonic Youth took the stage before 9 P.M. was presumably when they served as the opening band (punching bag?) for Neil Young and Crazy Horse on his 1990 Ragged Glory tour (Neil’s fans sat in wide-eyed bewilderment staring down and jeering “Tom Violence”) – but here they were, casually strolling onto the mammoth stage amid a dismal, scant house of people finding their seats. Opening with a tapestry of chiming, fractured propulsions echoing in the suburbanized stinky salty beach air, abruptly stopping to segue into a restrained then gradually electrifying “Rain On Tin,” Sonic Youth defied the drab set and setting to deliver an increasingly pulsating, “hits”-heavy set. Having read reviews of recent shows, my anticipation was meandering, spacey jamming experimentalism, evoking their SYR recordings and A Thousand Leaves-like remnants. Instead, Sonic Youth harkened back to deliver searing versions of Dirty’s “100%” and “Drunken Butterfly,” Daydream Nation epics “Teenage Riot” and “Eric’s Trip,” Sister’s “Catholic Block,” a killer from Confusion Is Sex (the song’s name escapes me) and the apocalyptic closer from Evol, “Expressway to Yr Skull” (amongst other tracks, notably “Mariah Carey and The Arthur Doyle HandCream” from the split single with Erase Eratta), reaffirming the belief that all that is left from Eighties-era post-punk isn’t just the landmark records and broken-up band’s sorry-ass drug abuse accounts (Husker Du, anyone? Meat Puppets?). Besides the occasional “thanks,” Thurston Moore could only muster the energy to utter, “Thank you my beautiful Long Island friends.” Admittedly having not seen Sonic Youth live since 1995 when a quartet, newly recruited fifth member Jim O’Rourke has undoubtedly added new dynamics – whether discharging scratchy leads, assuming bass duties for Kim Gordon or converging with Thurston, Kim and Lee Ranaldo to form a guitarrorist army, he has given Sonic Youth new life – both live and on record.

The Stooges require no introduction here with the exception they pre-dated punk rock by about ten years with the first of three revolutionary albums of unadulterated, anthemic anarchic crude fury… and Iggy… and (lest we forget) Ron Asheton, who still doesn’t garner the due credit he deserves – punk arguably never would have existed… Mudhoney and tons of post-punk bands would never have had a clue without the massive convulsing wah-wah-bent damage and Iggy’s sex-soaked, blood-stained, drug-addled bombast. While tickets for this evening’s show erroneously (and unjustly) presented only “Iggy Pop” in concert (no mention of The Stooges or Sonic Youth… and who would actually want to be subjected to just Iggy “heavy metal style” flailing around belting out his ill-advised latter-day period solo junk such as “Real Wild Child” and “Candy”), this night transpired as the ultimate for those too young to bear witness to The Stooges in their heyday (that is, nearly everyone in attendance). While punk and post-punk contemporaries (notwithstanding The Sex Pistols reunions) such as Television, Mission of Burma, Wire and The Buzzcocks have reformed to offer more than just sad, aging punks trying to recapture old glory, deserved accolades and attract new and old followers, the concept of Iggy with guitarist Ron and drummer Scott Asheton adjoined with legendary Minutemen/fIREHOSE/Stooge enthusiast/bass hero Mike Watt to play some shows proved not viable to pass up to those who’ve ever been moved by The Stooges, Funhouse and Raw Power. So at slightly past 10 P.M. and the orchestra seats nearly all filled (most of the middle and upper tier seats were completely empty) and people rising in anticipation of their first “New York” show in years, the Asheton brothers and Watt (sans the flannel) walked on stage to monstrous applause. Sporting shades, goatee and exuding a cooler-than-you’ll-ever-fucking-be vibe, Asheton plugged in, shredding into the piercing guitar lines of “Loose.” Enter Iggy. Fifty-fucking-six years old, skin-tight jeans, shirtless, veins popping out every which way, violently flailing himself into the crowd, running the length of the stage chaotically, a simulated fuck on Watt’s bass amp, tugging and reaching at his crotch, gyrating like there was no tomorrow – it did not fucking matter anymore where this show was and how much it cost! Every song was bone chilling, orgasmic, cathartic and loud – (in no particular order) “1969,” “No Fun,” “Not Right,’” “Little Doll,” “Loose,” “T.V. Eye,” “Dirt,” “1970,” “Fun House” (with Steven MacKaye on sax from the original Fun House record), “Down On The Street” (I think), an okay song off Iggy’s impending new record that was recorded with The Stooges (my buddy Mike from work said it sounds exactly like an Agent Orange song) and “I Wanna Be Your Dog” – twice! (Nothing was played off Raw Power – Ron played bass on that 1973 glorious proto-punk classic monstrosity). Iggy was obviously moved by the crowd’s boisterous reaction – he repeatedly shouted “bless you” and expressed how happy he was to the crazed audience – it was apparent Iggy did not want to leave the stage. The only downside (besides not being able to hear “Shake Appeal” or “Raw Power”) to the show was Sonic Youth’s perplexing decision not to heed to Iggy’s call to join in during “Little Doll” and “I Wanna Be Your Dog” – even Watt was waving at Sonic Youth to come out. Whether there was a notion they would upstage The Stooges (no one would be able to upstage Iggy on this night or ever) or proving downright to be pretentious arty fuckers who can only join Mission of Burma on stage and not Iggy – well, it’s beyond me. Sonic Youth has covered “Dog” live and on record (Confusion Is Sex), so who the fuck knows and cares. They, like us in the audience, were probably standing there with jaw dropped in awe as to how fucking incredible Iggy and The Stooges were on this summer night. (Brad Cohan; Photo by Drew Goren)

 

 

 


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