The Stooges, Jones Beach Theatre, New York

The Stooges deliver a real cool time
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The Independent Culture

When the singer took to the stage last Friday, he wanted it understood this was not an Iggy Pop and the Stooges show as billed; it would be a Stooges show. A subtle distinction, perhaps, but one that signaled the purity of intent behind the reformation of a band that had not played a full set together since 1974.

Enough rock writers have lost themselves in prose attempting to capture in words the ferocious beauty of the first two (of three) records the band launched upon the world in 1969 and 1970, and hundreds of bands since have tried to duplicate and mimic their intensity, but the Stooges came to Jones Beach last week to show how it should be done.

"I warn you, it's going to be very, very loud," warned a T-shirt seller outside the 10,000 seat seaside auditorium that tends to host the detritus of the music-revival circuit, acts like Boston and Foreigner. If the volume came as a surprise, the vendors had rarely seen a crowd like this: thousands of pale East Village denizens who look like they haven't left the neighbourhood in a decade bused out to the beach - what's this? Sand! - all decked out in their darkly decorous punk best.

But despite some trepidation, the Stooges can still play like no other, and it was immediately clear what Iggy Pop has been missing after years of touring-by-rote and making largely forgettable records with increasingly clunky heavy-metal bands. And that would be the Asheton brothers, Scott (on drums) and Ron (on guitar.)

Looking as though they've spent 30 years in a dilapidated Ann Arbor, Michigan, house (as they probably have), and backed by the original Fun House sax player Steve Mackay, and Mike Watt of the Minutemen, in for the deceased Dave Alexander, they returned their songs to the basement of the funhouse where the template for garage-rock was formed.

Forgoing the temptation to make up for lost time by playing too fast, or for Iggy Pop to over-act, the Stooges played as they should - dirty and slow. And, as promised, loud to that point that sound manifested itself like an apparition.

The best songs (but not, perhaps, their best-known) came over as the blown-out blues they are - "1970", "Real Cool Time", "Dirt", "Not Right", "Fun House" itself - achieved a hypnotic beauty. Even at this distance from their original incarnation, the Stooges delivered the delicate ferocity of three chords repeated over and over until they approached a primordial, if not to say sexual, intensity. All but ignoring their third and largely unnecessary record, Raw Power, they played their anthems - "Down on the Street", "Loose", "TV Eye" - with a freshness and fidelity that transcended time.

For Pop himself, a 56-year-old man with 17-year-old's body, to be back in his band looked like coming home. He swivelled and contorted, skipped and thrusted, as if directly amped. Hanging off the microphone stand, swinging the microphone round his neck until the cord chokes, he seemed released from the carnival duties of being Iggy Pop popstar and freed by the Ashetons to be James Osterberg, the original bored, lustful, clever, heart-felt trailer-trash misfit.

The simplicity of the arrangement - Scott Asheton and his drum kit center stage, Ron Asheton by his stack to the left, Watt to the right, and Iggy Pop stalking the stage, simple lighting and a lot of amplification - was a reminder, if any is necessary, that the best things need no adornment. Even a new Stooges song, "Skull Ring", due out on Pop's forthcoming record in September, sounded like an original. Closing their 65-minute set with the peerlessly "Little Doll", the Stooges - who are playing just four shows together - showed no one has come anywhere close to supplanting them. "We are the Stooges!" Pop repeated. And so they were.

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