You might be surprised to hear that for Iggy Pop’s Austin City Limits taping last night, he kept his blazer on for the first two — yes, two! — songs. After all, there are some compromises you have to make for television. Still, the audience in the room, and eventually home audiences when the episode airs, got a taste of how Iggy Pop has managed to not only outlive some of rock’s most hard-living performers, but still give anyone of any age serious competition.Click here to see more photos of Iggy Pop in concert and more pictures from the first day of the SXSW Music Festival
Iggy is not like most ACL guests. It’s even questionable if he’s human like the rest of us. He came charging onto the stage with the booming drum pattern from “Lust for Life,” dancing with the vigor of someone who doesn’t know what aging is. He never missed a chance to go into the crowd, punk forefather he is, and if he wanted to scale the entire Moody Theater, he could have done so. His voice carried the youth of 60s Detroit with a worldly experience, a balance only he can pull off. Iggy also doesn’t have the most PBS-appropriate mouth — at one point he said “Just because I can say f*** doesn’t mean you can say f***” and gave the mic to audience members to immediately contradict his statement. Even with a joyous performance, death hung over his choice of songs. He performed no Stooges material, partially because he had focused on a revived Stooges for most of the 2000s and right up until founding drummer Scott Asheton’s death in 2014. Iggy’s also the only surviving member of the original Stooges — guitarist Ron Asheton, Scott’s brother, died in 2009, and bassist Dave Alexander died in 1975 (former Minutemen bassist Mike Watt had played with the reformed Stooges). By heavily focusing on his first two albums, Lust for Life and The Idiot, Iggy’s set was in some ways a tribute to David Bowie, who played a crucial role in making those records and bringing Iggy to prominence. Iggy didn’t peep a word about his former mentor and collaborator; Bowie still loomed large nonetheless.
In contrast of Iggy’s perpetual shirtlessness, his backing band, which featured Queens of the Stone Age’s Josh Homme on guitar, dressed in red silk blazers and black slacks. Looking like a lounge band might seem out of step with Iggy, but his croon, still strong after Iggy living Iggy’s life, makes the idea of Punk Rock Vegas sound much better than it does on paper. Homme was the most animated of the backing band, peppering in slightly Elvis-esque gyrations. He also knows that he is not Iggy Pop, and clearly gave the floor to him. As the classic Henry Rollins bit goes, there is no use trying to upstage the guy who sang on Raw Power and Fun House. Homme plays on and produced Iggy’s new record, Post Pop Depression, of which a good chunk of the set list derived from, and little bits of the Queens sound, mainly the desert twang, inform the new material. Homme’s presence was a natural fit for “Repo Man,” from the 1984 soundtrack of the film of the same name a pleasant surprise, beefing up its surfy rhythms. “Repo” also affirmed Iggy’s influence on punk, especially the LA punk so prevalent in the movie.
The last two songs — “Paraguay” from Depression and “Success” from Lust — encapsulated that Iggy really loves what he does. “Paraguay” ends with him ranting about wanting to move to escape modern humanity, his voice moving closer to the primal yell of The Stooges, and when the song ends, he says “Nothing personal” with the biggest grin on his face. Yes, Iggy could kill you by merely shouting at you, but he also brings out the best in everyone. “Success” became a rousing sing-a-long, like Iggy’s anger from “Paraguay” became a distant memory that fast. And knowing Iggy, he’ll be just as enthusiastic tonight, when he reprises his set for those who couldn’t make it to the taping.