It's Been a Tough Year for Music, but at Least We Still Have Iggy Pop

The most widely seen Iggy Pop concert was not performed by the man himself.

In writer-director Todd Haynes' 1998 cult classic Velvet Goldmine, itself a fictionalized, Citizen Kane-style account of '70s glam rock, Jedi and Scottish sex symbol Ewan McGregor plays Curt Wild, a not-so-subtle analogue to the punk progenitor. Backed by Stooges stand-ins the Wylde Ratttz, Wild makes his first and most impactful appearance performing Pop's "T.V. Eye" to an unreceptive crowd. In a matter of three blistering and intense minutes, the scene dutifully ticks off each item on the unofficial Iggy Pop performance checklist: From the audience antagonization and self-harm to the vulgar sexuality, every critical component of the Pop lore is present and accounted for.

To viewers with even the barest of knowledge concerning Pop's discography or persona, there's no mistaking who it is they're really watching onscreen. McGregor's channeling of Pop is so visceral, so specific, that it's impossible to conceive that even less-informed audience members — to whom the phrases "Berlin Trilogy" or "proto-punk" are likely alien — would walk away from the film believing McGregor's character was a completely fictional creation; he had to be somebody. Such is the power of the Iggy Pop mythos.

It's this mythos that is fueling the excitement surrounding Pop's April 19 show at the Fillmore, the sole Florida date scheduled for his current tour. Accompanied by heavy-riff god Josh Homme and backed by members of Arctic Monkeys and Homme's own band Queens of the Stone Age, Pop and crew are touring in support of last month's Post Pop Depression. The album, a lean, nine-song probing of rock star ennui, absent friends, and years long since past, has been touted as Pop's latest comeback in a career chock full of them.

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As exciting as the prospect of seeing Iggy Pop in a live setting surely is for Miami concertgoers, if the melancholic tone of Post Pop Depression and promotional interviews are any indication, it may very well be their last opportunity to spot the street-walking cheetah with a heart full of napalm in his natural habitat.

Although once inconceivable, recent events have made a world without an artistically active Iggy Pop upsettingly plausible. Fellow punk patriarch Lemmy Kilmister, who passed away in the waning days of 2015, was but the first of many iconic musicians to die in quick succession recently. In what has been an almost tragicomic series of deaths, those lost in the first four months of 2016 have included, but are far from limited to, Beatles producer and pop genius George Martin, punch-line-rap pioneer and funky diabetic Phife Dawg, and just last week, cantankerous country legend Merle Haggard.

It is impossible to talk about both Iggy Pop and what an abysmal, heartbreaking year 2016 has been without mentioning the January passing of Pop's frequent collaborator and friend, David Bowie. Since Bowie's death and the announcement of Post Pop Depression, it has become something of a darkly comic cliché for writers to express disbelief that of all the Bowie contemporaries to outlive him, Iggy Pop is somehow among them.

Indeed, there is more than a kernel of irony in Pop, an individual defined by obscenity and self-destruction (this is a guy who, like an excited kitten, once rolled around in broken glass, after all) outliving a man whose biggest transgression was briefly flirting with fascism while caught up in one of rock's most storied coke binges.

One of these things is not like the other.

Listening to Post Pop Depression, which was recorded last year, it's clear Pop was contemplating his mortality long before Bowie's passing. Even though the album brings the swagger and bravado that has always characterized Pop's work and public persona, those qualities are now accompanied by the melancholy and reflection that can only come with a near-half-century of hard partying and rough living. That being said, the ever-present nihilism in Pop's music has consistently erred on the side of aspirational, and Post Pop Depression is no exception.

"I have no plans, I have no debts," Pop remarks on "American Valhalla," track three on the album. But despite his own insistence to the contrary, it would seem Pop's career has proceeded according to something resembling a grand or possibly preordained plan — weird, winding, and convoluted though it may be.

From the moment the boy born James Newell Osterberg Jr. eschewed a life of respectability for a life of transgression, at nearly every possible turn, Pop's life has zigged when it ought to have zagged. Where many bands would have faded into the great musical unknown after failing to achieve critical or commercial success, the raw power of Iggy and the Stooges' aggressive garage rock instead provided a framework for expressive, iconoclastic music that inspired disillusioned California youth and glammed-out English dandies in equal measure; when many musicians would emerge from heroin use spent and tired, Pop shipped off for Germany, a trip that would produce one of the most celebrated drumbeats of the '70s. And after decades of premature speculation about a disease-ridden, foreign-chemical-induced death in a dark and sketchy alleyway, Pop has done the most transgressive thing a punk can do: settled down in Miami with a wife at the ripe age of 68.

In an interview with The Guardian, Josh Homme (correctly) asserted Pop is "the last of the one-and-onlys" and should be venerated as such. Come Tuesday, Miami, a city itself known for subversiveness and inappropriate behavior, will no doubt do its part to give its wildest resident a warm reception.

Iggy Pop 8 p.m. Tuesday, April 19, at the Fillmore Miami Beach, 1700 Washington Ave., Miami Beach; 305-673-7300; fillmoremb.com. Tickets cost $64 to $105 via livenation.com.

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