All Hail Iggy Pop!

Everyone’s favourite arch miscreant headlines the Spanish capital’s urban blow out, Mad Cool 2019.

Right off the bat it has to be said that Mad Cool is not a typical festival – it’s way too urban to generate the same kind of vibe. It feels more like an outdoor nightclub or a garish fairground with a few stages added. There’s no nearby nature and the setting is a large and dusty industrial zone about an hour’s drive outside Madrid, covered in a vast swathe of green plastic turf.

Arrival doesn’t bode well… there are police everywhere, mainly fining unwitting taxi-drivers for dropping festival-goers off in the wrong place (the entrance) – despite the glaring absence of signs saying where they should stop. Plastic bottles, beer cans and litter is strewn all around and it will become painfully clear over the next three days that Mad Cool has not paid much attention to sustainability. The careful use of resources, or recycling, or anything remotely conscious of the fact we live in an era of unprecedented climate crisis, is not apparent. The organisers could learn something from the UK’s iconic Glastonbury, which is now entirely plastic free, rather than having mountains of mini plastic water bottles being wasted and eventually imperilling our oceans.

It’s early days for the event so hopefully these things will come into play once they are more established. Once inside, with Tash Sultana cranking out catchy loops and guitar riffs, the huge crowds look happy to be in the sun and primed for three days of Estrella, food trucks and favoured artists. Thursday evening, as the bright red disc dips behind a distant skyline, the audience is eagerly toe-tapping and fidgeting as they wait for the entrance of the only living legend on the Mad Cool roster – Iggy Pop.

The lights dim and the silhouette of a long-haired, wiry figure hovers at stage right. The tension erupts into a collective roar and out skips the twitchy, bare-chested king. The thundering and blood-rousing bassline of ‘I Wanna Be Your Dog’ acts as blue touch paper and the entire mid-section of the crowd are moshing. It’s the second track from

the 1969 self-titled debut by Iggy Pop and The Stooges – the iconic album which turns 50-years-old in August 2019.

It’s an album that has heavily influenced not merely individual artists and bands, but entire genres such as punk and grunge. Snatching up a goblet, taking a swig and tossing it aside Iggy lurches headlong into ‘Gimme Danger’, from The Stooges 1973 ‘Raw Power’ album – the menacing guitar riff affecting everyone in earshot. He takes no rest and railroads everyone into gleeful submission with the next two highlights from his 1977 solo LP, ‘Lust For Life’ – he sings the title track with humour and abandon, and ‘The Passenger’ provokes a mass chant of “Laa, la, la laa la la, laaaa!”

Four explosive songs in and James Newell Osterberg of Ypsilanti, Michigan, has everyone in the palm of his hand. And that’s where the audience – comprising fans of all ages, from teenagers to sixty- somethings – stay for the hour-long set.

Iggy transcends his age and physical limitations to give every last ounce of himself. He has a limp due to one leg being roughly an inch and a half shorter than the other and a slightly twisted spine due a college football injury and falling off an amplifier amongst other scars from a life of on-stage excess. Occasionally he looks tired out for a second of two after flailing around the stage, but he his head tosses back and his rubbery-leather torso spasms and he’s off again. He paces himself brilliantly and several times he comes down from the stage and delights the front row by singing, dancing and rolling around in their many outstretched arms.

After slowing things down a touch with ‘Skull Ring’ and ‘I’m Sick of You’ Iggy takes a moment, leans on the mic stand and says he wants to tell us something. “I was fucked up about half my life. The other half when I wasn’t fucked up, I do great, but a little voice says ‘you’re getting too straight, you getting too straight, you’re getting too normal. This is bullshit. You need, Some. Weird. Sin.” The band kick in, Iggy skulks back, sits down for a few seconds, knocks a chair over, swigs again from his goblet, spits, prowls back to the microphone and we’re in –

“Well, I never got my license to live
They won’t give it up
So I stand at the world’s edge”

The second half of the set and the gas pedal stays down through ‘Repo Man’, ‘Search and Destroy’, ‘TV Eye’ and ‘Mass Production’ before he launches into a favourite from his old friend and much-missed fellow icon, David Bowie. Iggy drawls, “He says he’s a beautician and sells you nutrition / And keeps all your dead hair for making up underwear” before holding out the microphone for the everyone to lead into the chorus.

With barely a pause after the last note fades Iggy shouts “No Fun motherfucker” and our beloved Idiot takes us back to 1969 and his debut album. The pounding nonchalance is as exhilarative as it ever was – Iggy is timeless. He brings things to a glorious close with ‘Sixteen’ another banger from ‘Lust For Life’. He bows and beams with gratitude for the rapturous applause which continues long after he saunters back into the wings.

For well over half a century Iggy Pop has been the wildest man in music. At 72-years old, no one performing at Mad Cool can hold a candle to him. He’s in a class of his own. Who knows how long he can carry on like this… his apparent invincibility is so convincing. All hail.

Colin Polonowski

Updated: Jul 25, 2019

Get involved
Continue the conversation over on The Digital Fix Forum
All Hail Iggy Pop! | The Digital Fix