It is tough to compete with The Stooges and Fun House when it comes to menacing rock & roll/ punk with as much ambiance as attitude. With a bootleg type feel, Live San Fran 1981 is still able to rise above the predictable with a few choice cuts to satisfy those devoted to Iggy's music. Opening with a decent "Some Weird Sin" from 1977's Lust for Life, this set is not comprehensive, and that it is so haphazard is actually a plus here. The obligatory "TV Eye" and "1969" are included, but outside of the title track to "Lust for Life," everything else will be obscure to people not acquainted with the Stooges' brand of mayhem. The core of the album is in support of the 1981 Arista release Party, and the second track, "Houston Is Hot Tonight," is one of the more manic and exciting cuts here. It sounds like a bizarre and revamped sequel to "White Light/White Heat" by the Velvet Underground with plenty of grunge to bring it over the top. "Rock & Roll Party," "Eggs on Plate," "Pumpin for Jill," and "Bang Bang" are the other titles from Party, those five tracks being half that album represented here on the twelve live tunes. "Dum Dum Boys," the only track from 1977's The Idiot, has eerie guitars and a sinister vocal that propels and differentiates it from most of the show on display in this package. "I Need More," a Matlock/Pop collaboration, has a good anthemic feel to it with a made-for-football-game chorus, and "I'm a Conservative," also from 1980s Soldier disc on Arista, has some decent moments. Despite the low sonics, the performance is very good and some of the selections -- "Houston Is Hot," "Bang Bang," "Dum Dum Boys," even parts of "I'm a Conservative" -- are hard driving and successful. The two studio bonus tracks, "Fire Engine" and "Warrior Tribe," were produced by Cars mastermind Ric Ocasek They don't have Pop's sneer nor Ocasek's trademark edge, but they are nice to have for completists. At the end of "Bang Bang" the Ig announces the band to an appreciative audience, though the tracking appears not to be in the order of the concert. About Iggy Pop/Jim Osterberg's recorded "live" concerts, Greg Prato says in his review of Ultimate Live: "either Iggy is focused and ready to take on the whole crowd (1977-1978, 1985-present day), or indifferent and half-hearted (1979-1983)." This 1981 disc is the exception to that rule, except for the Ocasek produced studio material, which is a shame because Ocasek is a truly gifted producer when he puts the elbow grease into it. Perhaps Ric and Iggy were having too much fun to settle down and let it rip, as the techno drums on both tracks get in the way of the hard-rocking live set. But all of it -- live and studio -- is nice to have for Iggy completists, and there are some key moments on this fine little platter. [A DVD of the show was released in 1986; this CD-only version was released in 2007.]
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