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Posted on Wed, Apr 20, 2011 : 1:42 a.m.

The music presents a fitting tribute to the late Ron Asheton

By Will Stewart


Iggy Pop performs with bassist Mike Watt in the background.

Melanie Maxwell |

Main story: Iggy Pop and the Stooges offer a punk rock celebration for a fallen bandmate In the end, after the kind words and slide shows and remembrances, the real tribute was heard in the music.

Raucous and ragged, the Stooges’ homecoming on Tuesday, a memorial to founding guitarist Ron Asheton, was a fitting homage to their fallen bandmate.

A symphonic orchestra performed a medley his signature riffs over a slide show of pictures from family albums. His brother, Stooges drummer Scott Asheton, always a man of few words, spoke some kindnesses.

And Henry Rollins added a pseudo-intellectual eulogy that somehow seemed to be more about how cool Henry Rollins is than about how cool Ron Asheton was.

But as it should be, rock ‘n’ roll spoke the loudest. The Space Age Toasters, consisting of students from Ann Arbor Neutral Zone teen center, kicked off the evening with a four-song Stooges homage that did the band proud.

After Rollins led the current Stooges, minus Pop, through “I Got a Right,” Pop arrived on stage in his trademark attire of jeans and no shirt and launched immediately into a string of tunes associated with the band’s later period, in which Ron Asheton moved to bass and James Williamson took over on guitar.

“Nice to see you,” Pop said. “We’re still The Stooges.”

Hmmm … not so fast.

Ron Asheton’s playing with the reformed Stooges before he died was sublime, arguably better than the band was in its heyday. Williamson, by contrast, seemed to struggle at times locking into rhythms with Scott Asheton and long-term replacement bassist Mike Watt.

Still, to see Pop crawl, squirm and croon through “Raw Power” relics like “Search and Destroy” and “Gimme Danger” was a treat. And when the band hit its stride, as it did on more than a few occasions, the effect was powerful.

Of course, when Iggy Pop is on a stage, the focus is going to be on him. And Pop, just two days shy of his 64th birthday, remains the consummate frontman — combining a savage magnetism with a sly wit and calculating intelligence, he prowled the stage, he surfed the crowd and he whipped the sold-out audience into repeated frenzies that twice threatened to squeeze him off the stage.

“Ladies and gentlemen, the amazing Ann Arbor dancers,” Pop said as the throngs attempted to exit the stage.

Pop turned the focus back onto Asheton when Ann Arbor native Deniz Tek took the stage to perform a series of songs from the Stooges’ first two albums, on which Asheton played lead guitar. The legendary Radio Birdman guitarist has an uncanny knack for emulating Asheton’s chords and wah-wah-drenched leads and was the perfect fit for Stooges Mach 1 tunes like “TV Eye” (aided, as were several other songs, by the symphony) “Dirt” and “Real Cool Time.”

Pop remembered Asheton with a few poignant words before he and Williamson, on slide guitar, performed a song they wrote for Asheton, “Ron’s Tune.”

Things took a turn toward the ridiculous when the band received the key to the city. But that awkward moment was short-lived, before the Stooges crashed into a set-closing, frenzied run through “No Fun,” during which the stage yet again filled up with dancers and well-wishers.

No fun? Lots of fun, actually. And a perfect end to a loud and lovely tribute to one of Ann Arbor’s overlooked heroes.



Thu, Apr 21, 2011 : 7:05 p.m.

I was right in front of James Williamson during the Shake Appeal "stage invasion" and he didnt seem rusty to me. His style is Different from Ron's but no less Punishing!! His playing on "Gimmee danger" was Epic!!In Fact. the whole show was an exercise in How far you can Push the Limits of driving Rock Music in a Theater setting with-out Causing a Riot!! Iggy was in Top Flight Form Throughout with his frequent stage diving and Crowd surfing Anticsin full bloom. Mike Watt has to be the most Ferocious and Feral Bass Player Ever!! The Stooges and their Guests perfomers (H Rollins, Deniz Tek) were Stellar from the opening notes of "I got a right" to the fitting closing drone of "NO FUN"!! A truly Blistering and Historic Requiem to Ronnie!!


Wed, Apr 20, 2011 : 9:50 p.m.

Rollins is a blowhard, the Howie Mandel of punk. He will do anything if asked and he doesn't turn down a gig, paid or unpaid. I'm sure he loved the Stooges and good for him for doing it. His lecture was ok for awhile but he really doesn't know when to shut up.

David Briegel

Wed, Apr 20, 2011 : 5:40 p.m.

Don't you think Iggy had something to do with what Henry said? And if Henry hadn't said those things don't you think Iggy would have? Give it a rest. Kathy had a great idea and executed it with aplomb. It was her idea to invite Henry! Scott and Iggy both said some nice things! Kathy saw to it that her brother got the well deserved recognition befitting his status! Lovingly!!


Wed, Apr 20, 2011 : 4:13 p.m.

I felt like Iggy was the one who made it all about himself and could've said more about Asheton. Without Henry Rollins' words that explicitly detailed Ron Asheton's meaning to the band, it would not have felt like a tribute to him.

David Briegel

Wed, Apr 20, 2011 : 2:32 p.m.

And no mention of Mr MacKay the sax player!

Will Stewart

Wed, Apr 20, 2011 : 11:42 p.m.

David, I gave Steve a big shout out in the "Highlights" sidebar. For what it's worth, his and Deniz Tek's playing were what made the show for me.


Wed, Apr 20, 2011 : 9:38 p.m.

Yeah, what's up with that? Not even a photo.

David Briegel

Wed, Apr 20, 2011 : 12:37 p.m.

Will, Henry Rollins was just being himself. I think he is just literate rather than "pseudo-intellectual" and I thought his comments were on target at both Ron and The Stooges and how they influenced him and others. The reference to the youth in Sri Lanka was a pretty cool story from the other side of the planet. I think Henry Rollins was a brilliant choice for MC and did an excellent job! I think Jim was really pleased with the crowd reaction and happy to be home! Melanie, what a great photo!! It was a great show and the audience loved it!


Wed, Apr 20, 2011 : 9:37 p.m.

I agree, David. It was a great memorial for Ron and Jim was happy to be home. I love how he asks for the lights to be turned on so he can see the audience. And it was a damn good time from beginning to end! Good energy all around!


Wed, Apr 20, 2011 : 1:25 p.m.

Dave Briegel is right on the money with this comment. Henry Rollins' tribute to Ron Asheton was great! The key to the city was met with humor if anyone was watching Jim's microphone at the time. Glad to have been there. What an eclectic crowd to have joined for an evening of high energy entertainment.