As the band took up their positions, in the rear shadows of the Royal Albert Hall stage a lank-haired figure could be seen sitting at a dressing table in the glow of a table lamp. The stomping drum intro to “Lust for Life” signalled that it was time to begin. Our man took a swig from a drink, dabbed his mouth with a napkin, then propelled himself into the spotlight, gurning, punching the air like a drunken pugilist, lurching with his simian gait and fixing the auditorium with an expression of wild-eyed astonishment that remained etched on his face for the next couple of hours.
Here was Iggy Pop, punk-rock legend, aged 69, modestly attired in black trousers and a single-button black jacket, the latter of which he soon dispensed with to reveal that his much-punished skin now resembles the leather from a vintage car seat. He was astonishingly vigorous and his voice seemed untouched by the decades. And he was happy — so happy that he shouted the word “Fuck!” five times in exhilaration a couple of songs into the set.
This was quite a show, a night that celebrated with delirious abandon the business of being alive. But it was unforgettable not just because of Iggy’s
rampagingly energetic performance, in which he stage-dived recklessly and walked freely through the crowd, hugging and snogging and emerging from one scrum with blood trickling down his face, but also because on stage with him he had several members of rock royalty: three members of Queens of the Stone Age, among them that group’s guitarist/singer Josh Homme, as well as Arctic Monkeys drummer Matt Helders. They were a hell of a band, smouldering and swaggering, Homme sashaying across the stage in alluring hip-swaying strides.
The night was memorable, too, because almost every track they played was drawn from one of three albums: The Idiot and Lust for Life, the two albums that Iggy made with David Bowie in the 1970s, and Post Pop Depression, this year’s excellent collaboration with Homme. Have “The Passenger”, “Nightclubbing”, “Tonight” and “Mass Production” ever been played and sung with such love? Iggy made no mention of Bowie, but these songs were tribute enough. Meanwhile, new tracks such as “Gardenia” and “American Valhalla” were a blast, the raw intensity of Iggy’s pebbledashed baritone the perfect foil for the sleazy decadence of Homme’s music-making.
The show — rumoured to be among Iggy’s last — ended with a roof-raising “Success”, Iggy prancing like a jester and grinning like a loon. Wonderful.
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