Coming off the back of this year’s Free, an ambient-jazz meditation on mortality, an intimate performance at the Barbican Hall auditorium for EFG London Jazz Festival feels like a good fit for Iggy Pop in 2019.
Flanked by a six-piece band (including jazz trumpeter Leron Thomas who worked closely with Iggy on the album), Pop drifts on stage to the hum of the album’s opener. Where he normally prowls, he wanders limply, stalling the chaos that normally comes with his performances. The first half of his show is made up entirely of songs from Free. The trudging Love’s Missing is performed immaculately by the band with Iggy’s weathered, wavering vocal adding a new theatrical intensity. Before playing Page – a twitching ballad about ageing and disassociation – Iggy tells the crowd about the depression he faced when writing the song. At a normal Iggy Pop show, this kind of candour would be impossible. Here, it brings the room to silence.
“I’d like to do a song from the 70s now!” he tells the crowd before launching into The Endless Sea from 1979’s New Values. Sonically, the new-wave whir of the track feels right at home in this set. Then comes Death Trip which sees Iggy dart into the stalls and prompt throngs of people to jump out of their seats and run towards him. This tactile, skin-close relationship still exists at the heart of this performance despite the formal setting. Frequently, Iggy slinks away from the stage lights into darkness in favour of edging closer to the audience.
Fever pitched is reached when Iggy reimagines Chop Chop Chop – a 2009 track by Sleaford Mods. He keeps the hook but uses the verses to tell his own story, chronicling each hazy decade of misadventures. Firstly, it’s a sign that his voyage of musical discovery on 6Music is paying dividends. It’s also emblematic of his state of mind, retrospective with a wink.
One of the night’s most tender moments comes when Pop performs We Are The People. It’s a poem by Lou Reed which Iggy recites on Free against Leron Thomas’ sprawling trumpet melody. Reed wrote it in 1970, just after he’d left Velvet Underground. “We are the people without sorrow who have moved beyond national pride and indifference to a parody of instinct” – words that feel especially prevalent almost 40 years on. Iggy performs them perched on a stool under a dim spotlight. It’s hard to ignore the fact that Lou Reed’s gone. So is David Bowie, who Iggy mentions a couple of times during the show. But he’s still sat there, just about catching the light.