Iggy Pop at Mad Cool: 50 years on, rock ’n’ roll’s great survivor is still the most thrilling performer

Fuck it, 10 stars

In the summer of 1969, everything changed. In June, the Stonewall Riots in New York kickstarted the LGBTQ+ rights movement. In July, man set foot on the moon. In August, 400,000 people headed to Woodstock in search of peace, love and music. The status quo was changing, and so was the shape of rock music. Iggy Pop and The Stooges‘ self-titled debut, released 50 years ago next month, was a raucous thing that set rock on a gnarly path that would ultimately influence punk, Nirvana, Sonic Youth and much more.

Half a century later, the world has changed, but Iggy Pop? Not one bit. Iggy remains the outsider and antidote to manufactured lead singers. At a twilight set at Mad Cool Festival in Madrid (July 11), he’s still wriggling like a Stretch Armstrong caught in a tug of war.

No-one has perhaps sacrificed more to rock’n’roll than our beloved Idiot – he’s mutilated his body, punished his voice and wrecked his soul in the name of giving the audience everything, every single night. But you perhaps wouldn’t notice it from the way Iggy skips onto the stage, he’s still hopping about like a man on a row of hot coals, and he seems to enjoy it.

Thus begins one of the greatest four-song runs at a live gig this writer has ever seen. The Stooges’ 1969 anthem ‘I Wanna Be Your Dog’ sees Iggy barking and flashing his gnashers. During ‘Gimmee Danger’, he swigs from a goblet, like the holy grail itself. Two songs from his finest solo hour, 1977’s ‘Lust For Life’, follow in the shape of ‘The Passenger’ and its title track, as he stomps around the stage causing mayhem.

After he’s given the crowd the hits and earned their trust – now he’s about to do his own thing. Solo cuts like ‘Skull Ring’, ‘Some Weird Sin’ and ‘Repo Man’ are drawn-out, sludgy rock epics and it’s clear that the glitz and glamour of the Post Pop Depression era is over.

In his live shows following the 2015 album, he was joined by an all-star band, including Queens of The Stone Age frontman Josh Homme, Arctic Monkeys’ Matt Helders and more for the Hollywood version of the Iggy experience. Tonight is a sleazier affair with backing singers and a brass section making it sound like a bar band in downtown New Orleans.

He’s visibly moved by the crowd’s reaction to every song. When he makes it down the front row to connect with the crowd, they’re completely star struck – one woman stares him deep in eyes and mouths “I love you”, and a wry grin breaks out from Iggy. “I gotta say something,” he says to the crowd mid-set. “I’ve been fucked up about half my life. Every now and then this voice in me says, ‘You’re getting too straight. You’re getting normal. You need some weird shit.”

It’s a freak-out from there until the final stretch. He collapses on the front row during ‘Search and Destroy’ and looks set to run out of the steam, but picks himself up for a rousing finale of Bowie’s ‘Jean Genie’ and the bruising ‘Sixteen’.

He gives a final wave to a crowd that have bounced along and screamed their adoration back to him for an hour. After an hour of hopping around in the searing heat, the 72-year-old struts off stage, battered and bruised like a fighter who’s just won the big prize. Rock’n’roll’s great survivor marches on….

Iggy Pop played:

I Wanna Be Your Dog
Gimme Danger
The Passenger
Lust For Life
Skull Ring
I’m Sick Of You
Some Weird Sin
Repo Man
Search and Destroy
TV Eye
Mass Production
The Jean Genie
No Fun