Iggy Pop was a force of nature on Later… with Jools Holland on Tuesday night, and I was fortunate enough to be there in the studio audience to witness Iggy lay waste to the cozy, boogie-woogie-piano-infested waters of Maidstone, Kent – where the show is filmed.
It was an evening of surprises.
With Josh Homme and Iggy Pop across the table, Jools Holland even managed a decent interview…
To get tickets to the event, you take part in two lotteries. The first is via the BBC website, where you apply for tickets, which are allocated randomly (to apply for tickets to be in the audience for Later… with Jools Holland you can click this link). The second lottery comes if you are successful (the shows are well oversubscribed). This is because you apply for tickets before you know which bands will be on.
If I had been allocated last week, Elton John would have been the highlight. Next week it is Last Shadow Puppets. Depending on your musical tastes this means over three weeks you could either see the godfather of punk, a couple of rather-full-of-themselves peacocks or someone who may or may not be rather over-fond of olive oil.
Either way, this is a nicely eclectic and varied potential list of headliners, but it is also like being offered a festival ticket without knowing exactly which festival you are going to. You are ready for Download, and then find out you are actually going to Kew Gardens: Kew The Music, sponsored by John Lewis.
The tickets ask you to wear dark clothing presumably so you don’t distract the viewer with your unpleasant Hawaiian shirt, or possibly just to wheedle out any potential Timmy Mallet-style attention seekers.
It feels like an invite to a secret meeting of Slytherin alumni.
Ticket holders are told to get there early, at the very rock n roll time of 6.15pm, as not everyone is guaranteed to get in (they over-subscribe in case people drop out) but we got there at 7-ish for an 8pm to 8.30pm start. I think we were one of the last to arrive.
We were shown in to a holding area with all the essentials:
- A bar, stocked with beer and cider.
- Yup, that’s everything.
Tuesday’s show goes out live from 10pm for half an hour, and there’s no opportunity for retakes. Friday’s show is an hour longer, shows Tuesday’s half hour first, and because it isn’t live, artists can re-record if something goes wrong, as was the case for Iggy Pop on one occasion when his monitor failed at the start of one song. Because the last part of Friday’s show is filmed first, the non-linear aspect to the show is like a Tarantino film without the violence, although Jools Holland tries his best with his interviews to provide the snappy dialogue.
He almost always fails, obviously.
One advantage of this method of filming, aside from allowing everyone to head home at a reasonable hour, is that by the time the show goes live, everyone is nicely warmed up.
Friday’s show was nicely varied with Iggy Pop, French singer songwriter (I refuse to say “chanteuse”) Lou Doillon (who happens to be the daughter of singer Jane Birkin), Graham Nash, Protoje, Blossoms and Margo Price.
Margo comes from the Third Man stable and gave Jools a chance to play piano alongside her, which is much less irritating live in the studio than people find it on TV.
I felt terribly sorry for Blossoms who are a good indie pop band, but who had the misfortune to follow Iggy Pop every time they played a song.
They did well in the circumstances, but to take an analogy imagine if you were, say, the bloke who works in IT in your office or who does the accounts, and somehow your girlfriend just got dumped by Leonardo Di Caprio and now she’s going out with you. I imagine Blossoms felt like that bloke from accounts/IT every time they played after Iggy.
I’m sure they did their best, but they must have felt they were something of an anti-climax for the audience, so to speak.
The best thing about being in the studio is seeing the interactions between the performers. Iggy Pop’s band of Dean Fertita, Matt Helders, Josh Homme et al have been on tour for a month and were all in a cheerful mood. They had clearly formed a tight knit group and were also celebrating Josh Homme’s birthday. They were like a litter of puppy dogs, dancing and joking around each other. You could see they loved the roots rock reggae of Protoje – who were very heavy and will be worth catching at Glastonbury this year – and the country/honky tonk of Margo Price especially.
There was a poignant moment when Jools Holland asked Iggy about his thoughts on David Bowie and one thing that made Bowie special.
Iggy looked back at Jools. Was he surprised by the question? He reflected for some time: a pause of what seemed like ten seconds…
I wondered whether he was going to well up in tears.
Iggy cracked a fond smile, “You want just one thing?”
“He wasn’t gonna be the Beatles or the Stones, he was gonna do his thing differently” reflected Iggy,
“He was an artist who happened to be in music.”
Iggy’s performance continued from where he had left off at The Royal Albert Hall. Offstage he was limping markedly – he has hurt his hip – and sitting down to rest at every opportunity, saving all his energy for the show but onstage he gave it his all, as you may have seen if you saw Tuesday’s show.
Amusingly, just before the live TV part of the show, Iggy retrieved a jacket he had thrown to the floor during the last song and said “That was an expensive jacket. I’d better pick it up”, as if he couldn’t quite understand how it got there.
As for Friday’s show, all I can say is that Iggy Pop saved the best for last. You should catch the show live or on iPlayer if you can.
After the show the audience is shown out – sadly there’s no opportunity to mingle despite your being so close to the performers – but the experience is enough on its own without scrambling for a tawdry autograph or photo.
Watching musicians watching other musicians is almost as much fun as watching them perform…
Later with Jools Holland with Iggy Pop is broadcast on BBC2 this Friday and will be on the iPlayer thereafter.