Massey Hall, Toronto, Canada – 6 August 2008
I was eight rows from the stage in Toronto’s historic and intimate vaudeville theatre that holds just under 3000 people, experiencing like never before the intimacy afforded by this type of venue in the presence of a living legend and medical enigma. Iggy Pop bounds on stage with the energy of a petulant child, performing shirtless as is his tradition, he screeches indecipherable lyrics to LOOSE. Iggy is touring his 2007 album THE WEIRDNESS with the original Stooges, Ron and Scott Asheton and Mike Watt standing in for the late Dave Alexander. The theft a week earlier of their equipment truck from in front of their hotel in Montreal (which contained everything they owned instrument and PA-wise) doesn’t seem to have phased them. They are playing with donated and borrowed instruments tonight. No mention is made in any event. In fact Iggy doesn’t address the audience at all, at least not with words but contortions of his elastic, seemingly ageless body that on paper would look superimposed onto his ravaged face. He is walking with a marked limp however and again we never get to find out why.
Early on in the set Iggy encourages a stage invasion much to the relish of the lucky patrons in the first few rows of the main floor of which I am one. Powering through NO FUN, Iggy is barely visible under the over-excited pogoing of his sweaty fans all trying to capture him on mobile phone cameras. I feel 16 again. I’m convinced he never stopped feeling 16. I WANNA BE YOUR DOG elicits rabid applause and Iggy delivers with an unexpected but true to form stage dive. He continues to bestow on his adoring fans musical trinkets like REAL GOOD TIME and SEARCH AND DESTROY.
Songs from the 2007 album, while they don’t lack the dinosaur stomp have gone from cosmic simplicity to inane blather and if titles like GREEDY AWFUL PEOPLE, FREE AND FREAKY and I’M FRIED don’t tip off listeners that he’s off his game, lines like “England and France, these cultures are old/The cheese is stinky and the beer isn’t cold,” “They drive those f*ckin’ awful cars/And roll their lips in titty bars,” and the deathless MY DICK IS TURNING INTO A TREE tell the rest of the story.
The creative and interpersonal dynamics of a rock band are notoriously tricky, and when a band hasn’t worked together for a few decades, simply getting the same people together doesn’t guarantee lightning is going to strike again. But miraculously on stage at least they have re-created the primal groove sound and feel of their first two albums. For good measure, lest he should disappoint, PASSENGER is the last song of the night. He humps an amp, fondles himself with the vigour of a teenager and pours water over himself as if in an imaginary wet T-shirt competition while jerking around the stage like a ritalin version of Mick Jagger.
Still raw, still primitive, still vulgar. Iggy we salute you.