By Bob Comstock //
As Novella wrapped up her opening set at The Masonic last month, the capacity crowd in SF quickly became antsy for Iggy Pop’s headlining performance.
Novella, after all, is a girl who plays distorted guitar loops with stomp boxes — an artist more suited for a bedroom or radio than a concert. She played about seven spatial songs, which my friend compared to “new age” music. When I heard that, I tried not to laugh too loud. Novella was also delegated to the lip of the center stage, in front of the black, velvet curtain. It goes to show you that respect has to be earned in the music business because everyone has to start somewhere. Novella, you have talent, but if you want to play venues, you should start a band.
After a 25-minute set change, the telltale drum of “Lust for Life” began booming and the curtain opened to reveal Iggy’s band. Each member was decked out in a burgundy, satin jacket with black trim and black pants. With the “Lust for Life” intro continuing to build, those in attendance became more feverous as the anticipation grew for one of music’s greatest frontmen to arrive.
Finally, Iggy Pop stormed onstage just in time to belt out the song’s opening lyric “Here comes Johnny Yen again”. After the first number, Iggy greeted the audience with a unique wave that was sure to be seen by each upper section in the venue. Instead of beginning his wave at the elbow like the norm, Iggy began his wave at his shoulder and rocked his body to propel his entire arm back-and-forth (a larger-than-life gesture). Iggy subsequently continued to thank the crowd for “helping him find employment in his latter years.” Everyone got a good laugh from that remark.
Flanked by a bassist (Matt Sweeney of Chavez), drummer (Matt Helders of Arctic Monkeys), lead guitarist (Josh Homme of Queens of the Stone Age) and two rhythm guitarists (Dean Fertita and Troy Van Leeuwen of Queens of the Stone Age) who also doubled on keyboards, Iggy’s band sounded amazing. I have never seen Iggy perform live before, and I was a little apprehensive as to how good the concert would be considering he isn’t exactly young. All of my fears were assuaged when Iggy exploded onto the stage wearing a snazzy grey suit, sans shirt, and later the crowd would discover his bright, red underwear (his pants kept slipping down, but thankfully he pulled his trousers up with each sag). The jacket had come off by the second song, and the bare-chested Iggy we have come to love was right standing before us and ready to rock. He still has the energy of a teenager.
The setlist didn’t disappoint. To appease people like me who were there equally to experience the phenomenon that is Iggy Pop and his music, Iggy’s band played other fan favorites like “Nightclubbing”, “The Passenger” and “China Girl”. Halfway through the set, Iggy brought out a stool and sat on it for a couple numbers. When not singing on the stool, he would shove the microphone down the front of his pants. When Iggy noticed the crowd’s reaction to his electronic phallus, he said with a wry smile, “Feels pretty good!” Typical Iggy.
Another attempt by Iggy to shock the crowd was during a prelude to a song when he said, “I wonder if we had a sit-in … talking about heroin. I wonder if … I wonder if I’d even enjoy it.” His delivery of that statement appears as if Iggy was actually considering it, providing a little extra shock to those unfamiliar with the drug. While Iggy didn’t engage in any of his previous, notorious antics like rolling in broken glass, vomiting and/or exposing himself to his fans, he did perform a stage dive — something he said he would stop doing after an accident in 2010. However, to the crowd’s delight, Iggy still took the plunge into the crowd at The Masonic.
After 14 songs, Iggy and his band left the stage before returning for an eight-song encore that culminated with “Success”. The song’s lyrics appear to tell the story of Iggy’s career, which has spanned nearly six decades. Overall, it was one of those magical concerts so engrossing that you completely lose track of time. Twenty-two songs in total for one performance — not bad for a 68-year-old rock legend.