Lust For Life: Iggy Pop at the Royal Albert Hall, Friday 13th May 2016
Richard Pearmain with words and phtopgraph on Iggy Pop in London.
The only UK stop on a tour promoting what may well be his final album, Iggy Pop at the Albert Hall was always going to be a more than just another gig. The portents had proved promising, with an acquaintance who’d seen him in Berlin a few days earlier telling me that they’d been blown away by his performance.
With a sell out crowd, and a preponderance of Bowie t-shirts on display, I also spotted Bobby Gillespie of Primal Scream dashing through one of the venue’s entrances – clearly, Kensington Gore was the place to be tonight.
Co-written and produced by Queens Of The Stone Age frontman Josh Homme, and featuring bandmate Dean Fertita and Arctic Monkeys drummer Matt Helders, Post Pop Depression is a fine swansong, and occasionally redolent of Pop’s collaborations with David Bowie – indeed, The Idiot and Lust For Life figured heavily in tonight’s set list.
The curtain rose to Matt Helders’ pounding introduction to the titular Lust For Life, with Pop lounged on a bar stool across from Helders’ drum kit, Homme and Fertita (along with bassist Matt Sweeney and fellow Queens Of The Stone Age troubadour Troy Van Leeuwen) decked out in red jackets, like some sleazy hotel house band. Speaking of jackets, it didn’t take too long for Pop’s own to be thrown aside, and he was soon prowling in his bare chested pomp.
That was one thing that was instantly apparent – Pop’s sheer, seemingly limitless energy and enthusiasm, throwing himself about the stage and very literally into the audience (several times). Not bad for someone pushing 70! “Someone turn on the lights in this fucking dump” he drawled after a couple of numbers, before waving to an already ecstatic audience once the lights did actually come up. I think it’s safe to say that I doubt the F-bomb has been dropped on stage with such abandon in this august arena.
Tracks from the new album sounded assured, such as American Valhalla and Gardenia, but it was the Berlin-era tracks that caught the ear, and boy, there were a lot of them – from the Oedipal funk of Sister Midnight, a stately Nightclubbing and a bouncy Some Weird Sin to epic renditions of The Passenger (complete with mass singalong) and China Girl, which coincidentally brought the first part of the show to a close.
As well as the stage diving, Pop perplexed the security staff with an extended wander through the crowd, being mobbed by disbelieving fans who variously shook his hand, patted him on the back or kissed him, all whilst Homme and co nonchalantly jammed on. On more than one occasion, women jumped on stage to embrace him (one drawing a comical response of “how you doin’?” from Pop) whilst one guy, given the freedom to make an announcement from the mic, could barely make a coherent sound (either through nerves, alcohol or, more likely, both). There were also a couple of reflective moments, where Pop recounted people he had known around the time he was making The Idiot who had lost their way in life for one reason or another.
A surprisingly long encore followed, which culminated in a joyous Success from Lust For Life – a suitable finale for a career that, ironically, for long periods had never enjoyed it. As the band left the stage, Pop stayed behind for a good five minutes or so to bask in the adulation of the crowd with good humoured goofing around.
Everyone knew that this gig was going to be special, but I don’t think anyone quite expected what followed, even by Iggy Pop’s own wild standards. If he really was saying goodbye tonight, then he did so with his raw power undiminished.
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