“Hey 50 for 50, you wanna go see Iggy tomorrow night?” As I was wavering whether I could make it back from New York in time, my good friend Amy followed up with “If there was a Mt. Rushmore of rock, Iggy Pop would be on it.” That shut down that dilemma. After automobiles, ferries, trains and buses, I arrived at the Academy of Music with 5 minutes to spare for the Iggy Pop show.
What can one say about Iggy pop. Well, for starters and a professional review, read Jonathan Valania’s excellent review for the Inquirer here. I read it after I wrote this so as not to be intimidated.
“Iggy is rock!” Another quote from my good friend, Amy. It will be no surprise to folks that I had not closely followed his career. I, of course, knew he is, but was never on my radar of someone I needed to see before I, or he, died. That is wrong. Put him on your list. Pay whatever price he is charging, you will not be disappointed. And if you are, come see me, I will refund your money. He was “fill in the blank” before “fill in the blank.” He is the epitome of anti- establishment. He is punk, new wave, rock and roll, beat poet and performance artist. He swaggers, struts, teases, seduces, flirts, cajoles, pushes you away, pulls you back in and then gives you the finger. In a word- magnificent!
When the opening bars of the first song came on, it was like a rocket was taking off, the floors shifted and chandeliers swayed, literally (well not really) shifted and swayed. The thunderous opening bars of “Lust for Life” were mesmerizing and electric. And there was no way anyone could sit in their seats. In fact, this is the first time I have ever been to a show at the Academy of Music where no one, I mean no one, sat the whole time in the orchestra section. They could have resold the seat I was assigned to someone else, because I certainly didn’t need, or use, mine.
When Iggy came out in a black suit, no shirt, he was backed by an unbelievable band adorned in beautiful red dinner jackets (“It’s cool that Iggy got Duran Duran to play back up for him,” Amy commented. Seriously folks, she is gold, you have to see a show with her). Even though he was not wearing a red jacket, nor shirt, he did make sure to wear red underwear to match the rest of the band. The back-up band, which seems an odd description since each and every one of them was an accomplished musician in other big name bands, was on fire all night long. Guitars, bass, six string guitars, drums and back-up vocals all in red vibrant smoking jackets.
During the 5th song, our “wiry little 69 year old Californian surfer dude wound as tight as a rubber band with a noticeable limp” friend dives into the crowd from the stage. Now if you know anything about Iggy Pop, and this I did, he was the first stage diver. And the first row dropped him. Who drops Iggy Pop? Good lord, that was scary. He just scampered back up on stage and continued on. By the next song, they were ready for him and caught him. Phew. He did a lot of crowd surfing throughout the show, came into the audience at times and hung and swung from his set. And he shouted at us, a lot. Not many family friendly words, but each chant got us more and more riled up.
What most surprised me about the show was his ballad singing. I thought I knew a ballad when I heard one. And I did, and he played many, but they were fast and loud. It was like some old school speed metal punk happening combined with poetry. And these were the slow songs. Usually, there is some hard rocking going on and then a band slows it down for a song or two. Iggy’s were slower and they weren’t. To my ear, he also sounded a lot like David Bowie when singing songs off of his most recent album, though this is no surprise as they worked a lot together (Bowie was first to record Iggy’s China Girl) and they are definitely kindred spirits. Additionally, he had better moves than Jagger and more eloquent poetry than Morrison. I also appreciated his dancing. He is a wriggler and you can tell that he just does not care at all what others think. He swayed, wriggled and was fluid the whole time. At times, he looked like he was moving to a string section though none were playing.
He played an amazing 22 song set (check out the full set list here) with nary a break. Since I was not familiar with his discography, I had no anticipation and hopes for him playing my favorite song. It is a great way to see a show, since it allows one to fully appreciate each and very song in real time. However, that won’t happen again, because the next time I see him I will want him to play each and every song I heard last week.
He told great stories throughout the show, but my favorite was his intro to the last song. He wanted the house lights on and the spotlight off of him. He yelled at the light guy to do so and followed up with “Do I need to come up there and saw off your (male body part)? This is my f*&)king night at the opera. Because I said so. And it feels like success.” Yea, it f*&(ing does. And with that he launched into “Success.”
8 shows to go, 66 days left…