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Four Generations of Punks: Iggy and the Stooges Electrify New York’s Le Poisson Rouge

Seeing Iggy and the Stooges in 2013 is a curious experience — you tell yourself not to expect too much, that there’s no way they could ever rival the greatness of their glory years (which were, after all, 40 years ago), that you should just go and appreciate the experience. And then, against all odds, they prove to be not just competent but genuinely amazing.

The band played West Village venue Le Poisson Rouge Sunday afternoon under the auspices of NPR, as a sort of warm-up for their upcoming tour dates in support of new album Ready to Die. (You can watch the full performance here.) Iggy’s in a jovial mood, confessing that the band doesn’t know the new songs as well as their classic material, but also pointing out, “We’ve had 40 years to learn [the old stuff]… so if I live to be 106, the new songs will sound great.”

The thing is, you can quite happily envisage Iggy being 106 and still climbing up onto stage, lithe and shirtless, and throwing himself around like a lunatic. As you watch him twist and gyrate and scream and throw himself into the crowd with the sort of energy that’d shame a randy teenager, you have to remind yourself that this is a man who has just turned 66 years old. It should be ridiculous, but somehow it isn’t — Iggy doesn’t so much defy age as render it entirely irrelevant. He’s a force of nature, just like he’s always been. You get the impression he couldn’t ever be anything else.

The new songs, of which the band plays a decent selection, actually sound pretty great — they certainly beat the hell out of anything off The Weirdness, anyway. Unexpectedly, it’s a ballad that has the greatest impact; the song’s called “The Departed,” and is a surprisingly solemn reflection on mortality that gives the title of Ready to Die rather somber implications: “I can’t feel nothing real/ My lights are all burned out.” But then, as Iggy himself points out, his songs have always been about sex and death, the two great dramatic events of life. As if to prove the point, they rip out a selection of Raw Power material: “Gimme Danger,” “Your Pretty Face Is Going to Hell,” and the title track, which is as visceral as ever.

The Stooges finish with a couple of songs off Serious Greatest Album Ever Contender Funhouse — first “1970,” then the title track, which finds Iggy doing his time-honored trick of inviting a bunch of people up on stage. It’s inspiring to watch four generations of people throwing themselves around with abandon — the breadth of ages encompasses a kid who can’t be more than 12 to several veteran punks who’d be about Iggy’s age, along with everyone in between. It’s a reminder of how real art transcends time and fashion, and it feels like a celebration of a career that’s pretty much defined everything that’s great about rock ‘n’ roll. Long may they prosper.

Photo credit: Tom Hawking/Flavorwire

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