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Iggy Pop at The Greek: While Not a Tragedy, He Took The Long and Uncompromising Road

Iggy Pop and the Stooges - Photo © Heather Harris

Iggy Pop and the Stooges: All The Right Moves – Photo © Heather Harris

By DONNA BALANCIA
and HEATHER HARRIS

LOS ANGELES – Iggy Pop wrapped the U.S. segment of his Post Pop Depression tour at The Greek Theatre with a few more fans than he had — and maybe that was the simple idea.

Iggy is a master of appearance and that 69-year-old appearance is holding up well.  He has the stance of a confident but undervalued pugilist who has paid the price for his uncompromising artistry.

But these days, his signature has been teaming with younger rockers to keep current, keep himself in the press and to stay sharp.

He’s learned a thing or two after being knocked around on the ground. And maybe his time has finally come.

“I love Iggy, he really won me over,” said a 20-something fan who was among the thousands at The Greek Theatre Thursday night. It was a sold-out last night of the Post Pop Depression tour he’s shared with prominent band mates Josh Homme, Matt Helders and Dean Fertita, Troy Van Leeuwen and Matt Sweeney. Now it’s on to Europe.

Iggy’s Revolution

These days Iggy’s goals are not as lofty as they were when he started a music revolution in the early 1970s.  The excesses of success are for those younger than him, he’s accumulated a great deal of wealth and he has a beautiful wife and home life in Miami.  He doesn’t party and he sticks to a regimen to make it through at least this one last big push on touring. And he could always use a few more fans.

 

SEE IGGY PERFORM AT THE GREEK ON OUR YOUTUBE CHANNEL

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The David Bowie Songs

It’s no coincidence Iggy’s band mates are at least 30 years younger than he is. The prolific punk rock progenitor was looking for a shot in the arm and just maybe a new raison d’etre.  Yes he’s been doing an amazing job as D.J. on BBC6 with insightful thoughts about a range of music. And he’s been going through the catalogues of others.

But since the death of former collaborator David Bowie, Iggy has dusted off the classics from The Idiot and Lust For Life, which Bowie produced for him.  While most Pop fans know “The Passenger,” his beautiful tunes “Everything Will Be Alright Tonight,” “Here Comes Success,” and his own, less well-known rendition of “China Girl” have long been overlooked by the masses.  These are songs that have gotten a lot of us through the tough times for a long time. So hearing them live is a treat; it’s remarkable that Iggy is singing those songs in concert only now that Bowie is gone, and there is probably a reason.

Overbooked Star

During the days leading up to his outstanding show at The Greek, Iggy must have been overbooked as he made a harried appearance at Mr. Musichead art gallery in Hollywood, across the street from Guitar Center and the Sunset Grill.  Many people arrived before the 6 p.m. start date for the showing of American Valhalla, the photos of Post Pop Depression.

Iggy Pop and Don Was - Photo © Heather Harris for California Rocker

Iggy Pop and Don Was – Photo © Heather Harris for California Rocker

Around 70 percent of the people who bought the $30-something ticket were disappointed to find out that by the time they walked through the gallery doors, Iggy, his wife, Nina, and Josh and his family had vamoosed out the back. After all, how much mugging for the cell phone camera can a guy do.  He had to have had 22 different two- or three-word conversations with those in line, after all.

We didn’t have the heart to stand there and stare and bother him with questions, seeing how Iggy looked a little drained from the experience.  When we offered him some water, he responded with a decidedly polite “No thank you.”

Then came the  “How much longer?” to his manager.

And with that, the group was gone from the makeshift tent that held a range of black and white photos of Iggy in his Post Pop desert days with Homme boy and pals. The photos are lovely but clearly Iggy was the attraction here.

Jammin’

Connie, a friend of Iggy from the old days, said she wanted to see Iggy and didn’t get the emailed update that came to ticketholders warning them if they wanted to catch a glimpse of King Pop, they had better arrive at 5:45 p.m. The email said Iggy and his team would be leaving for The GRAMMY Museum precisely at 7 “for a nomination.”

And yes, while deserving of a nomination, we’re not so sure that was entirely accurate.  We’re not aware The GRAMMY Museum gives out nominations for anything.  Nonetheless, those who bought tickets to the gallery showing were bummed when Iggy and crew were not there.  It’s free admission to Mr. Musichead on any normal day.

Wayne Kramer talks Super Group - Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

Wayne Kramer talks Super Group – Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

A major positive: At Mr. Musichead, we got to have a good heart-to-heart with Wayne Kramer, founder of MC5 and that made the event well worthwhile.  MC5 was the “big brother” band to The Stooges back in the 1960s Detroit.  Wayne is a gem, who spoke to us at length about his charity work.

He’s truly got a big heart and he’s a remarkably humble guy, especially since Wayne and MC5 are arguably the true creators of that Detroit punk sound, as “Kick Out The Jams,” is still the battlecry of every garage rock punk rocker wannabe, or never was, and even a dead music superstar or two.

Iggy and his crew piled into their black SUVs and jammed on out of the gallery. It’s probably not Iggy’s fault he was over boooked and that he and his crew tried to grab as much gusto from the Post Pop Depression tour push and the merch and monetizing opportunities. After all, Iggy came right out and said this would most likely be his last tour ever and possibly last album as well.

Iggy’s not an easy one to get along with, say his pals.  He’s a perfectionist and a little hard-headed — possibly even a – gasp – Republican.  Except for the Republican part, his idiosyncracies all probably come as a result of many years of leaping off the stage and sometimes not getting caught.  He innovated an entire niche of rock music in the 1970s that those hippies and others just didn’t understand. And it took a gargantuan effort to get where he is today.

We’re talking about a guy whose first claim to fame was walking on the audience like Jesus walked on the water, and smearing himself with peanut butter.  Even his bandmates, Ron and Scott Asheton and Dave Alexander, didn’t see the peanut butter coming.

Iggy Pop - walking on the crowds, use of peanut butter among memorable practices

Iggy Pop walking on the crowds and innovative use of peanut butter among memorable practices – Photo courtesy Midsummer Rock TV

Iggy Pop, Gadget User

Iggy has come a long way from recording vacuum cleaners and blenders for that authentic sound of Detroit, from whence he hails.  And The Greek Theatre is just about as far away as any performer could get from Detroit, on many levels.

You hear stories of rock stars and celebs donating money secretly to charities in their home towns, only to find out their benevolence upon their death.

Something tells us this will likely not be the case for Iggy, but he has definitely left an undeniable legacy of music.

“Iggy Pop feels underappreciated,” said one longtime acquaintance. “People are coming to his shows now and that’s wonderful. But even when ‘The Passenger’ had a modicum of success on the radio, Iggy couldn’t grow the fan base.  Maybe it was the marketing or something.  I never thought the Halloween-style drip-letter posters at The Ritz that said ‘Come see the Bizarre Iggy Pop’ were going to draw them in.  Especially when The Clash were playing up the street. It’s like even though Iggy’s one of the best performers in the world — and he was back then too of course — he couldn’t reach the audience that today has come to appreciate him the most — and that’s those people who are in their 50s now.”

Iggy Pop at last Stooges gig - Photo © Heather Harris

Iggy Pop at last Stooges gig – Photo © Heather Harris

Commercial Appeal

But Iggy Pop is certainly making up for lost time.

In the last 10 years, Iggy has done more to promote himself to the mainstream than he did collectively over the course of his life.

He’s headlined a record number of music festivals. He’s a perfume model.

He was a pitch guy for a British insurance company teaming with a puppet that bears his name — a gig that brought him a hefty dose of ridicule but lots of money. Iggy’s done voiceovers on kids cartoons and he even made then-judge Jennifer Lopez gaze admiringly when he performed on “American Idol.”

Then there’s the music. The classic “Search and Destroy,” the anthem of every punker that ever lived, written by Iggy with longtime collaborator James Williamson has been featured in several movies including “The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou,” several TV shows including “Lost,” and “Dexter,” video games like “Guitar Hero,” and “Tony Hawk’s American Wasteland,” as well as the the new ad campaign for the Audi A4.

Iggy has some hi-falootin’ famous friends, and hangs around with Henry, Johnny and Jim. Kings and queens. He even sat down for a meal with Tony Bourdain, who now uses “The Passenger” as the theme to his CNN show “Parts Unknown.”

Iggy and Tony - Courtesy Tony Bourdain

Iggy and Tony – Courtesy Anthony Bourdain

 

Iggy Pop and His People

Iggy said one of the reasons he likes to team with young people is because it keeps him fresh but he also said that when he partners with people like Kesha or Best Coast, he also gets a bit of free recording time also.  But the Post Pop Depression album is by all accounts a self-funded project produced by the likeable desert rat Homme, who cuts a striking if not gigantic appearance, particularly when holding hands with the 5-foot-something-inch Iggy.

Mr. Humble, Mike Watt - Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

Mr. Humble, Mike Watt – Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

Iggy apparently doesn’t discard his friends for no good reason, as at The Greek we ran into several old pals of his whom he’d invited to attend.

Mike Watt said he was honored to appear at The Greek, “Iggy asked me to come,” Watt said.

One of the guys who have been there the whole time, Watt is a humble sort who simply loves the music. And he misses The Stooges. “I loved that band,” Watt said emotionally.

Meanwhile, Iggy’s new band is sharp, young and extremely cool, looking dapper in lounge jackets and dancing around him on stage. Successful musicians in their own right, the guys clearly enjoy reciprocal benefit of touring with the veteran Iggy.

Tossing the Mic

On stage at The Greek, Iggy still showed with great bravado the shades of the anger issues that got him here in the first place. With his advanced age, they come across as funny and cute today compared to the days when he really was an angry young man with issues and wild performance antics.

Iggy mic stand pulverizer - Donna Balancia California Rocker

Anger issues; Iggy beats up on the mic stand at the Greek – Photo 2016 Donna Balancia

During the triumphant performance at The Greek last Thursday — a show that was completely entertaining and gave hints of what it must have been like to see him at The Ritz in the old days — he dropped F-bombs, shoved his hand down his pants, jumped into the crowd and beat up a microphone stand.  Then a song or two later, he went and brought it back and cursed at it.  When he stood it upright, it was bent in the middle and that got a laugh from the adoring crowds.

And maybe through his fits of celebrity, Iggy feels vindicated for all those years of starving, sleeping on other peoples floors and living a hard life — the most difficult life: That of an artist who won’t compromise his work.  On to Europe and a hearty Bravo to our own truly and uniquely American musician, and nevermore to be known as “The World’s Forgotten Boy.”

 

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