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Iggy & The Stooges Live in Detroit DVD/ The Cramps Live at Napa State Mental Hospital DVD

By Frank Meyer, Contributing Editor
Tuesday, September 14, 2004 @ 2:49 PM

(Music Video Distributors)

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The fine folks at MVD deliver a solid one-two punch of punk with this pair of stellar DVDs. The Creem magazine produced Live in Detroit captures Iggy Pop and his legendary original band, The Stooges, reunited for a hometown show in the Motor City, their first in 29 years. Live at Napa State Mental Hospital, on the other hand, finds psycho-billy goth punk favorites The Cramps in their early years in front of an audience of mental patients in an insane asylum. No, I’m not kidding. Both of these DVDs are must haves, as they find two of the world most dangerous groups in absolute peak form, a feat even that’s more incredible in the Stooges case when you consider that all the surviving members are in their 50s.

Live In Detroit makes a damn good case for the “Stooges are the greatest rock band in history” argument. Certainly, right alongside Black Sabbath, The Who and The Doors, The Stooges possessed a sound, look and attitude that completely transcended their music and audience at the time. Meaning: they have only gotten better and more appropriate as the years have gone by. Somehow the self-titled debut, Funhouse and Raw Power, not only get better with age, but seem even more ahead o their time now. And if the kids in 1969 weren’t ready for Iggy Pop and the Asheton brothers, the kids of 2004 are hardly equipped to handle this kind of thug art. On Live In Detroit you realize why everyone still talks about The Stooges like they were mythical Gods and why so many frontmen still cop Iggy’s moves (anyone seen Velvet Revolver’s “Slither” video?) -- 30 years later, they are still untouchable.

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In the first three minutes of this bruising hour-long affair, as he wraps his sinewy body around “Loose,” Iggy displays more fire, passion, energy and outright danger than any frontman MTV currently has to offer. The guy truly a human time bomb and explodes with energy, sex appeal and violence every 30 seconds or so. He doesn’t sing “Dirt,” so much as howl at the moon before your very eyes. He doesn’t scream “TV Eye,” he punches a hole right through the universe and pulls out its guts for you to chew on. The guy is a legend for good fucking reason: he is the best frontman of all time. Was since the first time he stepped on a stage, and still is , right now. Bar fucking none. Better than James Brown, better than Jagger, better than Ozzy. Why? Because 30 years later, sober and older than the hills, he’s every bit as volatile and real as he was when he was 21 and flying high on heroin and ready to die for you in a fit of art-rage. I love all the aforementioned icons, and a hundred more like ‘em, but none of them are as important right now as they were at their peak. Iggy hasn’t budged one bit from the top of the mountain.

Ron Asheton’s guitar work is sloppily brilliant throughout, as he tosses out razor sharp leads and chugging riffs with ease on the songs a million bands have tried to copy: “I Wanna Be Your Dog,” “1969,” “No Fun,” “1970,” and so on. He may be a few pounds heavier, but his guitar work is too, so it all evens out. Scott “Rock Action” Asheton and session-guy-of-the-stars Mike Watt provide plenty or thunder and wallop behind Ron’s lightning fret-work and Iggy’s patented singer-from-hell routine, turning “Little Doll” into a Bo Diddly-on-Ludes sludge-fest and stamping “Funhouse” with the most wicked funk groove Detroit has seen since the demise of the original Grand Funk Railroad lineup.

Bonus footage of the band at a Tower Records in-store minus Watt and a cool Creem photos gallery are among the extras.

The Cramps are among the bands heavily influenced by The Stooges, with Lux Interior being amongst the best Iggy imitators out there. In fact, he does Iggy so good he gives the man himself a run for his money. And nowhere is his Iggy-turned-horror-movie-cryptkeeper shtick on better display than on the hilariously surreal Live at Napa State Mental Hospital.

The year is 1978 and The Cramps have just finished recording their now seminal Gravest Hits album and somehow, someway, someone had the good sense and artistic foresight to book the Cramps a gig in the psycho ward of Napa State Mental Hospital to perform for the patients. How this made it past hospital administration is a complete mystery, but nevertheless, it happened and it was captured on film. Have you ever seen the punk horror movie Return of the Living Dead? How about Freaks? It’s kind of like that.

As the band careen through songs like "Mystery Plane," "The Way I Walk," "Domino," and "Garbage Man," they work the loonies into a frenzy, with Lux going apeshit every other minute and ice queen guitarist Poison Ivy wrapping her sexual prowess around every swampy riff via sneers and cold stares. Halfway through the second tune, a woman storms the stage and to share the mic with Lux and soon others join her. By "Human Fly," the audience is dancing, singing and hugging on stage and off. It’s the most bizarre, thing I’ve ever seen. David Lynch couldn’t have staged a better scene.

This DVD also features other interesting art-punk performances as bonus clips, but none of them even touch the genius of The Cramps at this gig. Any live video of The Cramps is gonna be worth checking out, but this is a once and a lifetime event that was, thankfully, captured on film and is now available at a store near you. You have never seen anything like it, I guarantee it.

Live In Detroit: * * * * *

Live at Napa State Mental Hospital: * * * * *

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