Half a century into an improbably long career, the original punk continues to deliver, offering up a DVD/CD combo of a riotous performance at the Royal Albert Hall.
Recorded live at the Royal Albert Hall during what somewhat improbably became the single biggest year of his entire career, Post Pop Depression: Live at the Royal Albert Hall finds Iggy Pop and company tearing through not only selections from the stellar titular album but also a good chunk of his decades-long recording career. Backed by Josh Homme, Dean Fertita, Matt Helders, Troy Van Leeuwen and Matt Sweeney, Pop’s electric energy is as vibrantly manic as ever, the songs crackling through the speakers with a visceral intensity. Though now nearing 70, Pop proves himself to be a singularly dedicated performer, leaving nothing on the stage. Coupled with the DVD of the same concert, Post Pop Depression: Live At The Royal Albert Hall offers a thrilling audio/visual combination wherein the raw power and presence of Iggy Pop can be both seen and heard.
Opening with the title track from 1977’s Lust For Life, Pop and company waste no time in ramping up the energy and intensity, driving the song along as though it were brand new rather than nearly 40 years old. His voice, still a surprisingly supple instrument, cuts through the band as a grizzled bark, the vitality and excitement audible in his voice. Similarly, “Sixteen” is delivered with the same level of visceral dynamism as the newer material, Pop prowling the stage and doing the full Iggy routine decades after having established himself as a pioneer in stage diving and the general batshit craziness attributed to many a front man and woman having followed in his wake. Twisting about in his leathery, age-worn skin, torso bare, hair flailing about, he still manages to cut as striking a figure at 69 as he did at 19.
“Fuckin’ thank you for coming!” he shouts to a rabid audience, adding a surplus of additional “fucks,” after delivering a smoldering version of “Sister Midnight.” Rather than being laced with menace, however, his voice is that of barely contained exuberance and euphoria at still being able to do that which he loves more than a half century after having burst out of a Ypsilanti trailer park. It’s but one of the multiple instances of Pop chatting up the audience as though they were old friends hanging out on a Saturday night. In other words, he knows his audience much in the same manner as they know him, each offering a relationship of reciprocity. Knowing full well he would not be where he is without them, Pop insists multiple times on having the lights of the hall turned on so that each has a clear view of the other. It’s a touching gesture of congeniality that further reveals the beating heart behind the often crazed persona.
Given the loss of his longtime friend and collaborator David Bowie at the start of the year, it’s little surprise that the program, aside from the Post Pop Depression songs, consists almost entirely of Bowie/Pop songs. From the aforementioned Lust For Life tracks to The Idiot’s “Funtime” and “China Girl,” the latter a far bigger hit for Bowie, the late artist’s presence can be felt throughout the whole of the performance. It’s a fitting tribute that need not be directly remarked upon in the moment as all those in attendance are well aware of the significance of the song selections.
And while Pop is clearly – and rightfully so – the main attraction, credit is due to his backing musicians, all of whom provide exceptional, sympathetic support, their respective egos well in check and each performance solely in service to the music. As would be expected, they nail the newer songs, all of which they played a part in helping create, but it’s their deft execution of the older material that proves all the more impressive. There’s clear reverence held by each for the proto-punk legend flailing about in front of them. From “The Passenger” on to “Success,” they are spot on in their support, enlivening the music with the requisite rawness of the punk ethos rather than delicately presenting it as a museum piece.
If this does truly end up being the last we hear from Iggy Pop, as he has indicated, before reverting to simply being Jim Osterberg, we can all rest easy in knowing that he not only went out on his own terms but did so at the top of his game. Post Pop Depression: Live at the Royal Albert Hall, both the concert DVD and accompanying CD, is a testament to that.