The music world has suffered some gut-wrenching losses the past few months, and while it wasn’t necessarily planned that way, the gift of a new Iggy Pop record and tour couldn’t be more necessary than it is right now. This legend lives, and he’s still got all the vocal audacity and unpredictable charm of his youth. Seeing Iggy onstage again reminds us of an auspicious reality: Mortality looms, but we are still here, alive, and so are many of our heroes. If they’ve still got it in ’em, now is the time to share it with us and share it fully, because who knows how long they’ll still have the chance.
That is exactly what the wiry 68-year-old rock god did last night at an intimate warmup show for his Post Pop Depression Tour at Teragram Ballroom, a nearly two-hour experience that not only proved his new material with Josh Homme is some of his best work in years but also celebrated his skill as a solo artist, pulling heavily from his hookier post-Stooges catalog, notably the prolific period that brought us Lust for Life and The Idiot.
Though opening up with your biggest crowd-pleasing hit can come off trite for some, for Pop it was the perfect choice. “Lust for Life” kinda says it all, and the exuberant chug of guitars and tenaciously catchy chorus made for a stunning start. It was a bit surreal watching Pop bouncing and posing about the tiny stage on his most zestful anthem, framed by the Teragram's bulb-lit stage and his new backing band — essentially, Queens of the Stone Age (Homme, Queens’ Dean Fertita and Troy Van Leeuwen, and Arctic Monkeys’ Matt Helders) all dressed in matching ’50s-style suits.
Iggy came out with a suit jacket on, too, with no shirt — and of course, it wasn’t long before the jacket came off and Iggy’s iconic torso, messy tresses and all-around sculptural self commanded center stage. He mugged and shook and belted his still-sturdy baritone on some of his most potent numbers — “Sister Midnight,” “Sixteen,” “Fun Time” “Tonight” — and peppered in some new ones, too. “American Valhalla” (a song that ponders heaven, tellingly near the top of the set) fit in seamlessly, while other new cuts, such as the wistful “Break Into Your Heart” and the midtempo groover “Gardenia” held up nicely near the end of the set.
Though all eyes had to be on Iggy throughout the show, Homme and his boys came off as an impressive and charismatic backing unit. In many ways, they were born for this gig with the Igg. Known for their forceful instrumentation and sly melodic vibes, they provided just the right balance of monster riffs, groove-heavy basslines and keyboard embellishments to balance Pop’s signature croons and rants. Plus, they sang backup and added solid harmony when necessary, too. It all came together especially well on earwormy faves such as “Nightclubbing,” “The Passenger” and show closer “Success.”
The overall mood of the show was obviously meant to be festive and light (the opening act was comedian Sarah Silverman), but there were profound moments, too. Pop shared stories of time spent in L.A., of going to jail, and more; he talked to the audience quite a bit, and declared us the best crowd he ever played for. Whether or not that’s true, it felt true and real in that moment.
He also played a track he’s never played live before, “Baby” from The Idiot, and declared, “I haven’t sang this in a fucking long time!” before tackling “China Girl.” Though he didn’t speak of David Bowie’s passing, his old comrade’s presence was felt heavily throughout. How could it not be? Bowie co-wrote or produced most of the stuff Iggy choose to sing last night, and that material from their “Berlin period” will surely be highlighted on the Pop Depression Tour’s big venue run as well.
The album and tour’s title may or may not be meant ironically, but there’s no denying that for music fans — and surely for Pop himself — there’s been a period of bereavement and reflecting recently, for more reasons than one. As the tour gets going, Iggy's new collaboration with Homme, and the old one he had with Bowie, makes for a full-circle celebration and a sign that it’s time to stop mourning and time to start singing, dancing, sweating and maybe even healing.