Iggy Pop at the Vic Theatre


May 21, 2001

By Jim DeRogatis, pop music critic



An Iggy Pop show circa 2001 holds few surprises, but that doesn't mean that it disappoints.

You can almost always count on the insanely energetic, unnaturally well-preserved singer bounding onstage shirtless to bellow a handful of tunes from his newest album before diving deep into his catalog to deliver the classics.

On Friday at the sold-out Vic Theatre, the former James Osterberg opened with a trio of songs from "Beat 'Em Up," his hardest-rocking effort in years, to be released in July. Then it was on to Stooges songs that established his reputation as a godfather of punk: "Raw Power," "Search and Destroy," "Now I Wanna Be Your Dog."

Iggy Pop at the Vic Theatre

"Beat 'Em Up" is Iggy's 13th solo studio album, but huge tracts of his discography go untouched in favor of the familiar anthems. In fact, of the 20 tunes delivered during a gripping 90-minute set, almost half dated from the Stooges and the early '70s. This makes it hard to explain why the singer has rebuffed attempts to reunite the band, especially given former guitarist Ron Ashton's fiery performance at the South By Southwest music conference in March.

Iggy's current touring band of guitarist Whitey Krist, drummer Alex Krist and bassist Pete Marshall certainly isn't anything special. A third of the audience (a nice mix of gray, grizzled veterans and young punks who weren't even born when Iggy recorded "Lust for Life") probably could have filled in and played just as well.

But an Iggy show isn't really about the song selection or the quality of the backing band. It's about watching Iggy, and he remains almost as vital and vibrant at age 54 as he was at age 20, even if his self-destructive "Death Trip" (to borrow the title of another Stooges song that he performed) is now more play-acting than reality.

Iggy hurled himself into the crowd. Iggy threw his microphone stand with wild abandon. Iggy terrorized the bouncers at the lip of the stage and twirled the mike in a giant arc above his head. It was impossible to take your eyes off him, and it was hard not to be swept up by his passion, which seemed more focused and on-target than ever.

It's an extremely angry Iggy who can be heard on "Beat 'Em Up," ripping into "the weasels" who control the music industry and the unthinking public that takes what it is spoon-fed. Onstage at the Vic, he ranted about the lack of justice in the world and the tragedy of people who don't share his lust for life.

Predictable or not, it's what we need in these rock-starved times.

Opening the show: Box-O-Car, the hard-rocking Chicago glam-pop quintet led by Vic employee and former Charming Beggars singer Skid Marks and guitarist Ken Sluiter, best known for his production work at Kingsize Studio.

The group unleashed a tight and spirited if slightly overlong set, building to a climax with a killer cover of Brian Eno's "The True Wheel."