Iggy Pop and Josh Homme at the Royal Albert Hall was a top-five-of-all-time kind of gig, and I’m struggling to think of the other four.
The merger of Queens of the Stone Age’s Josh Homme with Iggy Pop has produced a result better than anyone might have predicted.
In 1995 Josh Homme’s first band, Kyuss, split up after releasing four albums. Homme was just 21 years old. Kyuss’ debut had been released when he was just 17 and he was 18 when he recorded desert rock classic “Blues for the Red Sun”.
Homme broke up the band because he was tired of being confined within a self-imposed punk-rock-guilt inspired straight jacket.
And then he heard Iggy Pop.
“I was disillusioned” he said “Punk Rock had blown up in my face. What I thought it was, was a total lie. And then I heard Iggy Pop’s Lust for Life and The Idiot for the first time. If you’re a band on tour those lyrics hit you – they were so true. And then I heard The Stooges records. And those records said everything I wanted to say better than I could say it. It made me want to quit. So I did.”
And there, in a nutshell, is how much it means to Josh Homme to play and write songs with Iggy Pop. He heard an Iggy Pop record and he quit his band.
And what about Iggy?
“I work better with other people” he admitted in a recent Rolling Stone interview.
“I was looking for someone to make one last, good, formalist album with – meaning completely realised production and musical values that might have a chance of anybody hearing it in the music scene.” he told Mojo magazine.
Post Pop Depression is a swan song, then. Iggy Pop’s last “proper” album, and named after how Homme and co felt after recording the album.
Homme had proven he could collaborate with others successfully before, as his Desert Sessions series of albums showed. This was something that Iggy picked up on.
It started with a text, as Hot Chocolate might have sung had they written that song thirty years later. Iggy asked Josh. Josh replied “that would be wonderful.”
They’re so polite and well brought up…
That still left the problem of whether the two men could connect and write songs together. What cemented the deal, and stopped the project from being literally buried in the desert never to be heard again, was what Iggy Pop did next. Knowing Homme had something of an epiphany listening to those two seminal 1977 albums, Iggy sent Homme a blow by blow account of how he and Bowie had sparked each other into creativity.
When he saw what Iggy had done, in revealing the secrets of an album that meant so much to him, Homme shed tears.
He read Iggy’s notes about The Idiot’s “Dum Dum Boys”. It transpires Bowie suggested the title as an homage to The Stooges, then suggested Pop write a story to go with it.
“That gave Josh a hint” says Iggy.
Homme had his way in, a method to collaborate on a record, and in that way, the resulting album “Post Pop Depression” is a spiritual successor to those classic albums of 1977.
Last night Pop, Homme and the band, all except Pop dressed in red velvet coats like a Las Vegas lounge band, and including Arctic Monkey Matt Helders and Dead Weather/QOTSA guitarist Dean Fertitia, supplemented by bassist Matt Sweeney and QOTSA keyboard player Troy Van Leeuwen, played the Royal Albert Hall.
They played songs principally from albums made in 1977 and 2016, and they were extraordinarily brilliant.
They opened with “Lust for Life”, a song that would be any other band’s encore, and closed with a joyous “Success” which with its call and response verses turned the Royal Albert Hall audience into a gospel choir.
Such songs, including the triple mid-set whammy of “Some Weird Sin”, “Funtime” and “Tonight” plus a wonderful chugging “China Girl” – surely a better version has never been played – sounded extraordinary: never mind the tributes at the Emmys and Brits – this was the nearest thing you can imagine to channeling Bowie in 2016.
Iggy Pop is a great front man of course. Shorn of his black jacket after less than three songs, he crowd surfed topless, danced on stage and off with various members of the audience, walked through the crowd and shook and wiggled like a madman for two hours, before closing on the magnificent expletive-ridden chant and rant that is the new song “Paraguay”. Bleeding from an early head wound he was every bit the most exciting front man of a generation. When you consider he is 69 years old, he’s a walking, snarling miracle on (spindly) legs.
Although there’s a different feel compared to his amazing combustible appearances over the last half dozen years or so with The Stooges: less confrontational, more collaborative and celebratory, the performance was no less intense or entertaining. Meanwhile, Homme shimmied and sashayed in the background in his velvet lounge jacket, handing Pop the limelight whilst Matt Helders beat his kit into submission.
“Mass Production” and “Nightclubbing” were a welcome reminder of the experimental side of those seminal albums, sometimes sounding like Queens of the Stone Age songs. It is interesting to spot the influence that Iggy has had on Homme when you hear him play those older tunes.
Interspersed between the older songs were new songs from Post Pop Depression and the best thing you can say is that they nestled very nicely in between the rest, with “Chocolate Drops” and the two singles, “Break into your Heart” and “Gardenia” standing out.
No Stooges songs were played tonight: this was a celebration of the new album and the two Berlin albums. “The Passenger” was a joyful sing-a-long for the Albert Hall patrons that must have made the last night of the proms pale into insignificance for sheer exuberance.
An extraordinary evening now sadly over. If this is truly Iggy’s last stand it was wonderful, and we are all about to face a long, long period of Post Pop Depression.
- Lust for Life
- Sister Midnight
- American Valhalla
- In the Lobby
- Some Weird Sin
- German Days
- Mass Production
- The Passenger
- China Girl
- Break Into Your Heart
- Fall in Love With Me
- Repo Man
- Chocolate Drops
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