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Gimme Danger: Iggy Pop & The Losers with Grace McKagan @ The Pearl Las Vegas, 4/29/23

May 29, 2023
“Gimme danger, little strangerAnd I feel with you at easeGimme danger, little strangerAnd I’ll feel your disease
There’s nothing in my dreamsJust some ugly memoriesKiss me like the ocean breeze
Now, if you will be my loverI will shiver and singBut if you can’t be my masterI will do anything”
Gimme Danger, The Stooges
Some people are just born cool. Or are they molded into it by circumstance? Is it the alignment of the planets and stars, the programming of genes; or is it the childhood experience, the cultural zeitgeist of your teenage years that forms your being? Nature vs. nurture, a timeless biological and psychological disharmony… is it relevant to one’s ‘coolness’?  My BA in Psychology neglected to discuss this.
Jim Osterberg Jr, otherwise known as Iggy Pop, is one of those iconic artists that has always been attached to the idea of ‘cool’.  Even when you are young and you just become marginally aware of his existence in the entire catalog of artists in the world, it is immediately conveyed to you that this person is universally acknowledged as ‘cool’.  Not into punk or even rock music? Still cool.  Not even into music? Still cool.  Cool lives in the corners of the way that people talk about things; you can just sense it, even when your mind is young.  This is an unachievable feat; even more so for someone with as long and varied a career as he’s had.  Mr. Pop bubbles to the top of icons that are universally loved beyond their music for just being a caricature of themselves: Dolly, Willie, Keith, Iggy. These are people who are authentic to a fault, produced more work than even the most voracious fans could ever absorb, and never forgot where they came from.  I mean Iggy has gone from this to this in the span of his career!  What was once dangerous will become commercialized at some point I guess.
I drove from a different desert in a different state for the show, and began the day at the somewhat new Punk Rock Museum.  It was really cool to see an entire museum dedicated to punk, complete with a bar and soon to be open wedding chapel and tattoo parlor.  In the music room, you can play gear owned by actual famous artists, which seems crazy but also totally punk rock.  One of the docents explained the extreme measures the museum went to checking provenance of items- everything displayed has been validated as real/used. That’s unusual for a museum as a lot of things you tend to see behind glass are replicas and the museum-goers are unknowingly duped.  So I definitely appreciated this. Also, Fat Mike from NOFX was there so it really was a living museum!
The museum is essential right next to Little Darlings and it wasn’t quite time to check in to our hotel yet. So why not pop in and waste an hour? Yeah so it was a totally nude club- which means no alcohol- but luckily we were buzzed from the museum (words I never thought I’d type) so we had a little adventure there for an hour.  Being the only people in a strip club does have it’s advantages.
Several hours later, we ended up at The Pearl early.  It was my first time at this venue in a long time, but I’ve seen a lot of insane shows here.  We ended up being up against the barricade and had a fun conversation with an MMA fighter turned security guard who had fought Brock Lesnar in the past.  I found this highly amusing.
The show began with Grace McKagan as the opener; daughter of Duff McKagan who would be playing in Iggy’s band.  I would be tempted to say that it is refreshing to see younger musicians playing rock music with the way that it’s been sidelined in today’s society, but she is Duff and Susan’s daughter and that would out me as a curmudgeon.  It was also be cheap to say that she clearly gets inspiration from Courtney Love and Shirley Manson because she is her own person, and this comes through.  She has been at it, now, indeed, a long time, as I started to become aware of the Pink Slips when I was preparing to interview Duff nearly ten years ago.  I could see him proudly watching on. A perfect mix of strength, emotional vulnerability, and mystery- their set served as an appropriate warm up to what was to come.
In typical Las Vegas style, it became abundantly clear that most of the people around me- at the front of the venue for Pete’s sake- did not know much about Iggy Pop.  No one got my peanut butter joke.  The person next to me was a Duff fan.  Sure enough, by the end of the show none of these people remained as it got a bit too crazy for them.  It was announced that tonight was being filmed which is always an interesting experience- everyone gives extra but the lights stay on.  When Iggy walked out, the hitch in his step from scoliosis that has become more prominent over time was nearly hobbling him it seemed. I was concerned. The last time I saw Iggy was probably one of the craziest shows I have ever seen, but that was ten years ago.
It didn’t take long for me not to be worried.
So the first few songs were from the album Every Losers, recently released by this project Iggy Pop and The Losers, a super group of sorts featuring the aforementioned Duff McKagan (GNR), Chad Smith (RHCP), and producer Andrew Watt (Ozzy Osbourne). Joining them on this tour also was Jamie Hince (The Kills).  Iggy’s mantra is to write simplistically, ‘like Soupy Sales’, and these songs don’t depart from that… this is his nineteenth studio album after all.  The new material sounds great, but with every storied artist there is that bit of hesitation with the crowd.  But the band are just getting warmed up. And then “Raw Power” hits and it’s like those guitar chords just split the ether; suddenly we are all in a punk multiverse.  It’s the past and the present…. hell, it’s even the future.  Raw Power got a Magic Touch….Iggy is both taunting and alluring the crowd; I am at the end of a curved barricade so I have a perfect view of everyone in the middle.  Grown men are crying whilst Iggy has his hip cocked out spewing his speech at them. It’s a masterclass in didactic lyrics in artistic performance and subservient crowd worship.  Bodies are flying over the rail, some run towards the stage, arms outstretched, yearning for more.  Somewhere during “T.V. Eye”, the Godfather of Punk is hovering over me. I can see the pupils in his blue eyes.  The tribal beat of the song synchs with my heart rate as I enter a live music trance, where I’m deeply aware I’m having one of those moments I’m going to lock away forever.
I’m comfortable in speaking for most people in saying that when we grow up, we tend to put on a pedestal the era or two that came before us. Then there’s the culture we experience in real time as a teenager/young adult.  Then there’s the rest of it.  There’s something about the stuff that came before us that will always be fantastical, because of the way that history is told to us and remembered.  A lot of the bad & the boring are left out.  So for me, one of those amazing storyline’s players are Bowie and Iggy.  Whenever I’ve had the chance to be close enough to see Iggy Pop’s pupils, it’s been surrealler than Dali. These are the people that cast a thread through my life that have affected me day to day; what I wear, what I watch, what I’m into.  They’re my nurture.
The band was spastically wailing away.  To back up your idol must be a joy.  Onto “The Passenger”, my favorite Iggy album if I had to choose one would be The Idiot. I will admit I discovered this album when I learned that Ian Curtis of Joy Division was listening to it when he killed himself, because I am more goth than you. It is a masterpiece. “Lust For Life” is so entwined with Trainspotting and all of the feels that come along with that live inside it’s own warm, Irish-accented bubble.  I have now dodged about the 100th Chad Smith-flung drum stick as we slide into “Gimme Danger”.  Maybe it’s because I have this tattooed on my arm, in Stooges font, which proved to be a helluva move a couple months before a worldwide pandemic hit, but this was one of the songs of the night.  So many cups and bottles being rocketed on stage at this point. A war rages inside me: how dare they/proper punk show here. Iggy croons; his voice is strong if not shades worn from decades of danger.  And then…the belt starts to come undone.
“Loose” is crass, and totally awesome.  The man still has all his signature moves.  Somewhere around here he still managed a stage dive. I mean I’ve even given up my stage diving days and I’m a few decades younger.  The rhythmic thudding of “Nightclubbing” followed; the rendition this evening was extra-spicy, extra Vegas. I can remember first hearing this song and just being mesmerized.  Like, what is this genre? what kind of drugs are they on? what are they about? and where do I sign up? kind of person-defining questions materialized. The main set ended with the always rowdy “Search and Destroy”. The pants are nearly falling down, and does Iggy have a landing strip?
Quickly onto the encore, we were treated to a seated, pensive “Walk on the Wild Side”, followed by a totally mental “I Wanna Be Your Dog” and finally “Louie Louie”.  As we left the venue, we were filmed a lot.  I remember I used to be at so many shows that I was a regular fixture on AXS TV.  The merch line was long, but I got this about a week later as an anniversary present, signed by the man himself.
I’ve been doing a lot of thinking lately about Kurt Cobain, after listening to one of my favorite podcasts, 60 Songs That Explain the ’90’s which recently featured “Smells Like Teen Spirit”. Cobain has this legacy frozen in time at the peak of his fame since he died at 27. But what if he had lived? Courtney Love is on the podcast talking about how we have no idea what his ideology would be like if he were alive now considering some of the things he said and did back then. Would he have fallen from fame? Would he have made bad albums? Would he be relevant anymore? It’s incredible mesmerizing to still be able to go and see Iggy Pop, someone who’s been part of the cultural zeitgeist for decades and continues to be relevant with barely a misstep throughout such a varied career.  Like sands through the hourglass, Iggy Pop’s coolness prevails.


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