Iggy Pop cures ‘Depression’ blues with joyous Fox show

Adam Graham
The Detroit News

Iggy Pop was effusive in his praise for his hometown Thursday night at the Fox Theatre, beaming as he called Detroit the “No. 1 place in the (expletive) world” during his earth-shaking sold-out concert at the historic downtown venue.

“There’s really no place like this. You drive in and it’s like, ‘wow!’” said Pop, shirtless and sinewy at the close of the 115-minute show. “(Expletive) Paris, (expletive) London, (expletive) New York, (expletive) L.A. This is the (expletive) right here!”

The lovefest was mutual. The crowd gave it up for Pop and his band, his ace in the hole as he tours behind last month’s “Post Pop Depression” album. Joined on stage by Queens of the Stone Age’s Josh Homme, Homme’s QOTSA bandmates Troy Van Leeuwen and (Detroit native) Dean Fertita, Arctic Monkeys drummer Matt Helders and Chavez bassist Matt Sweeney, Pop was powered by a veritable supergroup that gave his songs immeasurable stomp and swagger.

Of course Pop could front a band of cardboard cutouts and still turn it into an electrifying night out, and the 68-year-old remains a one-of-a-kind stage presence. He hit the stage to the pounding swing of “Lust for Life,” flinging his body around like he was trying to leap out of his skin and bouncing himself off of invisible walls. He wore a black suit jacket that was long gone by the third song, torpedoed his shirtless body into the crowd seven songs in, during “Funtime,” and sang “Fall In Love With Me” while traipsing through the crowd on the main floor.

Along with Detroit, Pop’s show was a tribute to David Bowie, as in addition to his new material he concentrated on his two Bowie-produced albums “Lust for Life” and “The Idiot.” “China Girl,” which Pop recorded in 1977 before Bowie made it a hit years later, was given added sneer and an extended instrumental outro which capped the set before Pop came back for a seven-song encore.

While retaining an air of unpredictability in his performance, Pop was noticeably slower than he has been in past performances, and he walked with a pronounced limp that stunted his step. He took a breather during several songs, sitting crosslegged on a stool at the front of the stage and sometimes pausing his body for emphasis on particular words and phrases. But there was still plenty of punch, and “American Valhalla” packed the heavy wallop of a brontosaurus stampede and “Mass Production” had enough raw power to unclog a sewer drain.

Still, there is a melancholy feel to “Post Pop Depression,” spliced with a defiant sense of arrogance in the face of mortality; Pop refers to himself as “America’s greatest living poet” on “Gardenia.” He admitted having to write “Chocolate Drops” as a pick-me-up while feeling down (sample line: “when your love life is an empty beach, don’t cry”), and a lengthy rant at the close of “Paraguay” (sample line: “I’ve had enough of you – yeah, I’m talking to you!”) came couched with a disclaimer after the fact. “Nothing personal!” he explained. “We love you very much.”

The current tour is being billed as the sole occasion Pop will perform the new songs with the current band, and there is talk the tour could be his last extended outing. If that’s the case he’s going out with a bang. He closed the show with “Success,” chanting “hooray, success!” a huge smile splashed across his face as he waved his arms above his head before thanking Detroit for the role it played in his life.

“Thank you for spawning me, and thank you for keeping me alive with your magical dirty energy,” he said. The fans roared back for what is hopefully not the last time Iggy Pop is in front of a live Detroit audience.