Fuse Music Review: Iggy Pop Live at the Orpheum — Senescence Be Damned

Whether this was his last tour or not, Iggy proved he’s still got what it takes to play great rock and roll.


By Matt Hanson

In a recent interview, Iggy Pop hinted that he may retire after finishing the tour promoting Post Pop Depression, his fourteenth solo record, admitting that there just isn’t much left in the tank at his age. If he does, it would be an understandable if regrettable choice considering that the godfather of punk’s 69th birthday is nigh. It’s not like he’s not taken very good care of himself over the years, either, to put it mildly. The fact that he has at this point maintained his sobriety and achieved some level of normalcy in his legendarily chaotic life is almost as impressive as the fact that he has a new record and a worldwide tour as a swan song.

This Monday at the Orpheum in Boston, Iggy and his crack team of backing musicians, including members of Queens of the Stone Age, The Dead Weather, and The Arctic Monkeys, all of whom appeared nattily attired in red sequined suits, kicked off the show with (what else?) a rousing rendition of “Lust for Life” and proceeded to live up to the song’s vigorous promise for two sweaty, exuberant hours. Senescence be damned: whether this was his last tour or not, Iggy proved he’s still got what it takes to play great rock and roll.

Iggy’s legendarily provocative stage antics weren’t nearly as self-lacerating as his legendary shows with The Stooges, but his raw exuberance and obvious joy in performing kept up the momentum. Most of the set list was culled from his solo work, including old standbys such as “The Passenger” and “China Girl” which was expanded into a long guitar duel while Iggy took a breather offstage. Some more obscure material was mixed in as well, such as his theme song for the cult classic Repo Man and the delirious, giddy, show-ending “Success.”

Some of the most successful songs of the evening came from his Bowie- produced 1977 masterpiece The Idiot. The heavy, funky, proto-techno grooves of “Mass Production,” “Sister Midnight,” and “Nightclubbing” were well served by the band’s relish for each song’s sinister swagger and ominous overtones. One of the pleasures of hearing decades-old songs played live is to see precisely how far ahead of their time the original material really was; each of these songs could have been standout tracks on his latest record.

Post Pop Depression is a relatively introspective effort, further suggesting that it might be his last. The songs aren’t always consistent. The first single “Gardenia” describes a noir-ish scenario between Iggy’s distinctive crooning on the chorus. “Sunday” and “Break Into Your Heart” rumble and throb with the same looseness and energy the band brought to playing live. What lets down the record is dopey concept numbers like “Vulture” and “Chocolate Drops” and the labored “German Days.”

When the songwriting is tightly arranged — always Iggy’s secret weapon, aside from his raw charisma and energy — as on “American Valhalla” and “In The Lobby” the songs still rock while Iggy works out some of his issues: “I followed my shadow and it led me here/ What is the problem if I disappear?” Adding a few shrieks that wouldn’t be at all out of place on a Stooges-era record only accentuates the point. Whatever else he might do, Iggy Pop isn’t going gentle into that good night.

If he has indeed decided once and for all that he’s finally ready to fully shed the gnarled skin of his Iggy persona and go back to being plain old James Osterberg Jr from Ypsilanti, Michigan full time, then more raw power to him. After all, he’s as entitled to enjoy his AARP years as anyone who hasn’t lived as hard or as long as he has. At one point in “American Valhalla” he wonders about his final legacy, ruefully intoning and repeating, “all I have is my name.” At this stage in his long and volatile career, if that’s all Iggy Pop thinks he’s got, then it’s certainly enough for anyone.

Matt Hanson is a critic for The Arts Fuse living outside Boston. His writing has appeared in The Millions, 3QuarksDaily, and Flak Magazine (RIP), where he was a staff writer. He blogs about movies and culture for LoveMoneyClothes. His poetry chapbook was published by Rhinologic Press.

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