At the ripe old age of fifty, Iggy Pop likely has more years behind him than ahead of him, a concept that haunts his new album, Avenue B
. Like Frank Sinatra's September of My Years
(which he released in 1965, when he was fifty), Avenue B
contains the musings of a once-carefree playboy scared to death of dying alone. A far cry from its raw-powered predecessors, the album is broken up by morose spoken-word reflections, accompanied by weepy string arrangements.
Iggy Pop took the stage a few blocks west of the actual Avenue B, at New York's Irving Plaza on Thursday night. All alone and bare-chested, he sat down while he recited "No Shit," one of the aforementioned reflections. "I wanted to find a balance between joy and dignity on my way out," claimed the admittedly "more bookish" Iggy. Then, he strummed an acoustic guitar and crooned the eerie "Nazi Girlfriend."
Yep, it was gonna be a long night. We were at Iggy's wake, and the f---er wasn't even dead yet (to borrow one of his favorite terms).
Suddenly, the night turned: A scraggly backup band, looking like Metallica with Rob Halford on drums, took the stage. Iggy gave up the guitar, grabbed a mic and opened a can of whoop-ass the size of Michigan. For twenty uninterrupted minutes, he led the boys through Stooges' classics, Pop's solo yowlers and Avenue B
's heavier hitters. Gyrating about the stage like an epileptic lizard, he wiggled everything from his tongue to his protruding pectoral muscles. "Louder!" "Faster!" Iggy demanded during the blistering "Raw Power" and "Search and Destroy," both amazingly raw after twenty-five plus years.
After a version of Chad Allen's "Shakin' All Over," visually aided by projected twirling spirals, and new-album track "Corruption," the band paused briefly so Iggy could address the crowd. "F---in' cool!" he began. "I could say this, and I could say that, but it would all be f---in' bullshit. The best thing I can do at this time is to shut up and f---in' play."
Without another word, louder, faster renditions of "Real Wild Child (Wild One)" and "I Wanna Be Your Dog" were underway. During the latter, Iggy, his black pants hanging lower than a refrigerator repairman's, scaled the stage's adjacent wall and dove into the crowd, reappearing moments later onstage to finish the song. Cliched? Sure. But remember who wrote these cliches.
The assault subsided during Avenue B
's jazz-tinged "Felt the Luxury," in which Iggy assumed the role of Beatnik: "My life was a desert before she came in, and wrecked it and ripped it and rubbed my nerves thin..."
Soon it was back to Plan A. "I need a motherf---ing lift!" Iggy demanded. Through 1977's "Passenger," his band gave him one, and he invited audience members to share it with him. About thirty dancing women and men -- some shirtless, who haven't seen their stomach muscles since '77 -- joined Iggy onstage for the "La la la la, la la la la" singalong.
For the encore, Iggy came out again with his guitar, sat down and began strumming the sluggish "Miss Argentina." But this time we weren't fooled; ear-splitting renditions of "TV Eye," "I Got a Right," "No Fun," "Johnny B. Goode" and "Louie Louie" lay ahead.
After the final "We gotta go now," the crowd, more accustomed to Iggy's Red Hot imitators, exited slowly into the East Village night. A fifty-year-old man had kicked our ass.
Written by BILL CRANDALL for RollingStone.com News