A packed and smoky club... San Francisco... 25 November 1981... The nexus between the fading remnants of punk and disco and the germination of new wave... What better ambassador to represent the changing times than the remarkable James Osterberg?"
Several years removed from his outrageous tenure with the Stooges, Iggy Pop had slithered and growled his way through the embryonic stages of an impressive solo career. The 1977 efforts The Idiot and Lust for Life proved that he was far more than a charismatic musical exhibitionist smeared in blood and peanut butter. The albums showed that despite a frightening pattern of self-destructive behavior, Iggy was still capable of writing and singing his ass off, in each case with the help of fellow space oddity David Bowie. The former Mr. Stardust added a discernable production sheen to the recordings, polishing rough edges as necessary but still capturing Iggy's burgeoning talents as song writer and iconic punk vocalist. The Ziggy and Iggy collaboration assuredly saved the ex-Stooge's musical existence and most probably his life as well.
Although Iggy's follow-up efforts (New Values and Soldier, 1979 and 1980 respectively) were less impressive, he was by decade's end firmly entrenched as punk rock's presiding godfather. Thankfully, Iggy's enduring presence would be too strong to simply disappear in the soon-to-be-spawned MTV video age, and the ageless Popster continues to delight fans in the new millennium with his sneering brand of vocal aggression. For those who have followed Iggy since he was a Stooge, the new DVD Live in San Fran 1981 provides a nostalgic trip back nearly twenty five years and captures the singer in a somewhat subdued (albeit entertaining) performance.
Backed by a band surprisingly large in number (including three guitarists and drummer Clem Burke) our pint-sized punk hero appears clad in a wraparound mini-skirt, motorcycle jacket, fishnets and garters. Ah yes, that infamous humor and trend setting fashion sense It is just so... Iggy...
What follows is a set comprised of a dozen songs ranging from classic solo Iggy ("Lust for Life") to vintage Stooges ("1969"). With a minimum of stage theatrics, the gig is squarely focused on solid vocals and strong instrumental support. Of course there is the requisite grinding and jumping about, but Iggy is on his best behavior in this West Coast setting, content to let his singing carry the show. And that it does... Live in San Fran 1981 is surprisingly tight and a fascinating glimpse into the early '80s incarnation of the King of Pop.
Consistent with the primitive nature of Iggy's catalogue of work, the footage is something from the dark ages of cinematography. Compared to today's standards, it is almost amateurish, but appropriate for the grimy club we find ourselves in. Although the overall sound is muted at times, the various camera angles put viewers on stage with Iggy and the band and convey a wonderfully visceral feel for the unique small venue experience. Sweaty and standing-room-only, this is where the rock action is, with Iggy guiding us.
Are there any weak points to the DVD? Not especially, as it offers exactly what is advertised: Iggy is consistent throughout and the show is an interesting time capsule relic from the singer's past. The disc's bonus material is negligible consisting merely of the trailer for the CREEM Presents: iggy & the stooges - Live in Detroit reunion concert film. Fans can take heart that the venerable rock magazine has not sold its publishing soul to the devil, and continues to stay true to its roots by presenting the best that music has to offer, visually and in print.
Unspectacular in most respects, but classic solo Iggy nonetheless, Live in San Fran 1981 is a welcome addition to the DVD library. Fire it up and turn your humble abode into a Fun House.