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Stooges and friends pay tribute to Ron Asheton in Ann Arbor
ANN ARBOR -- With due respect to the other members of the band, a Stooges show is usually about Iggy Pop, the frontman and manic hydrofoil who, as he turns 63, remains one of rock 'n' roll's iconic personalities.
But Tuesday night (April 19) at the Michigan Theater was, as emcee Henry Rollins told the crowd, "Ron's night."
That would be Ron Asheton, the Stooges co-founder who died on Jan. 6, 2009 at the age of 60. He did not live to see his band inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame last year; nor, to this point, had he been formally memorialized. But on Tuesday Asheton was saluted in his home town with words and mostly music for what amounted to, appropriately, the loudest wake you can imagine.
The tribute gave a sense of occasion and an injection of additional passion to music that never really fails to raise the roof, anyway. Emotions were unapologetically worn on sleeves as Rollins spoke to the 1,700 fans -- who snapped up tickets for the show in an hour -- about the Stooges' importance and Asheton's role as "just a magnificent musician, period." Drummer Scott "Rock Action" Asheton thanked Pop for helping his brother "make his rock 'n' roll dreams come true, and Pop recalled that his absent friend "had a gift, a sort of charm. His compositions were simple but very memorable" and that "when I wanted to start a band, Ron was the first guy who would get behind me."
But not surprisingly it was the music that spoke loudest on Tuesday. Space Age Toasties, a band from Ann Arbor's Neutral Zone teen center, delivered a spirited four-song set that included versions of the Stooges' "1969" and "Down on the Street." Rollins fronted the Stooges for "I Got a Right" before Pop came on to lead the group -- which also included "Raw Power" guitarist James Williamson, longtime saxophonist Steve Mackay and Mike Watt, the group's bassist since 2003 -- through pulverizing renditions of "Raw Power," "Search and Destroy" and "Gimme Danger." Announcing that "I wasn't gonna do this 'cause it's a nice theater and a serious occasion," Pop then invited fans on stage for "Shake Appeal," and dozens heeded his call for a few minutes of ebullient bedlam.
That only stoked the energy level for "1970," "Beyond the Law," "Fun House," the "ballad" "Open Up and Bleed" and a version of "I Wanna Be Your Dog" backed by an 11-piece orchestra. Radio Birdman's Deniz Tek, a longtime Asheton friend, spelled Williamson and provided guitar heroics on "T.V. Eye," "Loose," "Dirt" and "Real Good Time," all backed by the orchestra, while Pop and Williamson debuted the acoustic "Ron's Tune," which included lyrics such as "the music says you'll be my friend to the end" and "because you were my friend, I always think of you again."
And after receiving keys to the city, the Stooges and their guests finished the night with "No Fun" -- whose title, of course was the antithesis of what transpired over the two-and-a-half hours.
Tuesday's concert was a lunch of sorts for the Ron Asheton Foundation formed by his sister to help raise money for charitable causes, particularly music and animal rights and care organizations. Information can be found at www.ronashetonfoundation.org.
The set list for the Asheton tribute show included:
I Got a Right (with Henry Rollins)
Search and Destroy
Beyond the Law
Open Up and Bleed
Your Pretty Face is Going to Hell
I Wanna Be Your Dog (with orchestra)
T.V. Eye (with Deniz Tek and orchestra
Loose (with Tek and orchestra)
Dirt (with Tek and orchestra)
Real Cool Time (with Tek and Orchestra)
Ron's Tune (Iggy Pop and James Williamson acoustic)
No Fun (with Tek, orchestra and Space Age Toasties)
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