Grandfather of punk still a real wild child

Iggy Pop quickly dispenses with his shirt at the Sydney Opera House.Credit:Prudence Upton


Sydney Opera House Concert Hall, April 15

James Newell Osterberg Jr, better known by his untamed id stage persona Iggy Pop, turns 72 this week.

With all due respect to septuagenarians, this raises several questions: can Pop still summon the feral energy that’s cemented his position as one of rock’s greatest frontmen? Can a man of grandad's age still be punk? And, most importantly, can he still pull off not wearing a shirt in public?

The answer to all three, it turns out, is a resounding, “Hell yes”.

Bounding onto the stage in a leopard-print jacket that doesn’t even make it to the first chorus, the lean and wiry-as-ever Pop and his muscular six-piece band charge through a blistering take on the Stooges’ classic, I Wanna Be Your Dog, commanding the packed Concert Hall audience to its feet.

Fuelling the crowd's excitement, the band segue into a second Stooges cut with Gimme Danger,  followed by The Passenger and Lust for Life, both given extra punch via soulful keys and horn stabs from a two-man brass section.

One of rock’s greatest frontmen, Iggy Pop hasn’t lost his raw power. Credit:Prudence Upton

Prowling the stage and gleefully deploying classic Iggyisms – writhing about, pulling faces, shoving the mic down his pants – Pop curates an impeccable greatest hits setlist that cherrypicks key tracks from across several decades.

Seventies-era solo songs are well represented with the likes of Sixteen, Some Weird Sin and Nightclubbing (the latter performed in a cape that lasts even less time than the jacket), as are a slew  of Stooges classics including Search and Destroy, 1969, TV Eye and a raucous version of No Fun, where forty-odd people join Pop onstage for an impromptu dance.

A trio of well-chosen covers is dotted throughout the show. There’s a nod to Pop’s old creative sparring partner, David Bowie, with a faithfully rendered The Jean Genie, as well as takes on two iconic Australian tracks with a sleazy barroom version of Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds’ Red Right Hand and Pop’s enthusiastically received synth-heavy stab at Johnny O’Keefe’s Real Wild Child (Wild One).

Triumphantly leaving the stage after a display of livewire energy that would make people a quarter his age envious, Pop, one of the last living legends of rock’s golden age, proved he’s still got plenty of punk-fuelled fire left in him.

Iggy Pop plays a second and final Sydney show at the Opera House Wednesday, April 17.

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