A 68-year-old shirtless man flails his arms around, his lanky hair flying, an intentionally moronic expression on his face. His muscles are sinewy; his skin sags a bit. He punches the air, runs in place, thumps over his shoulder as if trying to reach an itch in the middle of his back. A cordless microphone shoved down the front of his pants juts out comically like a giant erection.
The man isn’t arrested: He’s Iggy f—ing Pop, and the crowd at the United Palace Theater is loving every unhinged second of his act.
Pop has said that he may never make another album after his latest, Post Pop Depression. If he doesn’t he’ll have gone out with a bang that suits his legend. The album is his best in decades, possibly since The Idiot and Lust for Life, the duo of mid-’70s David Bowie collaboration albums that, according to Queens of the Stone Age founder Josh Homme — Iggy’s collaborator on Post Pop and bandleader on this tour — acted as inspiration for the new LP. And with just one exception (an unexpected and fiery reading of “Repo Man”) songs from those three albums comprised the entire 22-track setlist for this show.
And while, after 50 years of wildly unpredictable performances, Iggy is a fairly known quantity, you still never know what he’s going to do or when he’s going to do it. He skipped and flailed and stumbled and flexed and stretched and raised his arms as if in benediction. He barely delivered a sentence without at least two f-bombs in it (after one song: “F—in’ thanks! You’re very f—ing nice people!”). He plunged into the audience four separate times — for one, he retreated to the back of the stage and got a full running start. His song introductions ranged from “F— me! F— me, everybody! I wanna have some fun!” (“Funtime”) to “Peace of mind is very hard to find, unless I’m drunk” to “Hey, how about a robotic number with European-Teutonic-Slavic overtones?” (“German Days”). He performed one song entirely from the middle of the crowd. At one point he humped and licked one of the speakers on the side of the stage.
The key for the versatile, shiny-red-jacket-clad band — Homme and QOTSA mainstays Dean Fertita and Troy Van Leeuwen on guitars and keyboards, Matt Helders of Arctic Monkeys on drums and former Chavez frontman Matt Sweeney on bass and guitar — was keeping things simple, and they wisely stayed close to Bowie and Pop’s original arrangements on the vintage material and their own on the Post Pop songs. Homme, freed from his usual frontman role, strutted across the stage, playing off of the equally animated Sweeney. The bandmembers swapped instruments and roles regularly: Van Leeuwen handled the high backing vocals on the Bowie-era songs; sometimes there’d be three guys playing guitar, sometimes two on keyboards, Homme even played bass on one track. You can tell it’s a bit of a rock and roll fantasy camp for them, playing songs they grew up covering with the legend who wrote them.
After nearly two hours and a long, seven-song encore, the crowd was wrung dry. The only disappointment? No Stooges songs …