It was Iggy Pop’s 72nd birthday and he was not about to give a half hearted performance. Limbs flailing, leathery skin sagging and a voice that must have been encased in liquid amber, a la` those bugs from Jurassic Park, for the past 40 years, tonight Iggy was throwing down a challenge to the enraptured crowd, saying ‘If I can do this motherfuckers then you’d better throw that energy right back’. And that we did, from the moment the band took to the Festival Hall stage and kicked into ‘I Wanna Be Your Dog’, the energy in the room was at fever pitch and remained that way for the entire 21-song set.
“Gimme danger, little stranger,” sang Iggy, one arm snaking out towards the masses, his hips jutting at odd angles and in doing so he made the world feel deliciously dangerous. Minutes later he was leading 1700 odd people to sing the ‘la la la’ bit from ‘The Passenger’ and even this familiar moment of pop music, acted out in unison, a moment of togetherness, was anything but safe.
The band played that music as its own, like it was still 1969 and there was war all across the USA and they were funnelling that anger and disillusion into an act that was pure fantasy, volume and raw power, baby. The guitars were tough, the rhythm section riding a line between tight cohesion and the looseness of the recorded versions and the two-piece horn section added weight to ‘Lust for Life’ and others.
I once read an interview where Iggy described his stage persona as being ‘just a little bit too sexy’, and indeed he has built a career for over 50 years on pushing things further than necessary, his battered body somehow still gyrating across the stage, the once taut torso now a gleeful display of beauty in the grotesque and what could be more punk than that.
A slight limp in one leg is one of the few concessions to age he allows, dragging the stiff limb behind him as he moved fearlessly like an iguana, jumping down into the pit during ‘Search and Destroy’, one tanned arm waving across the sea of bobbing heads, the disembodied voice beaming directly from 1973, its sneer, scowl and pout unchanged.
‘1969’ is goddamed 50 years old and it’s only gotten tougher. Iggy looked happy singing it. ‘Last year I was 21, I didn’t have a lot of fun, and now I’m gonna be 22, I say oh my, and boo hoo!’ We sang him happy birthday and confetti rained down upon Festival Hall and I hope that there will always be an Iggy Pop exactly as there was tonight, dancing in the air, tongue out, a rebel, a clown, a legend.
Written for Beat Magazine.