When Iggy Pop (then Iggy Stooge) whirled out of Detroit in the late '60s dancing like James Brown and singing his cranked-up white suburban blues, he came on as a nightmare offspring of American culture, a vision of the heartland gone haywire.
He hit the rock world like a fragment of anti-matter trailing a comet's tail of debris. His confrontational performances and crude intensity formed the foundations of heavy-metal, and he embodied the attitude that would later crystallize as punk. In the Stooges' landmark 1973 album "Raw Power," Iggy Pop called himself a "runaway child of the nuclear A-bomb," and the band played with the force to make you believe it. Iggy is one of the few to leave permanent scars on the face of rock.
Obviously, this isn't the kind of thing he can carry on forever, and the Iggy Pop who played the Palace on Sunday night approaches the 40-year mark faced with the challenge of shedding his past (to the disappointment of the fans who still want the old destructo freak-show) and finding a way to channel his art into a new mode.
His '70s collaborations with David Bowie are a promising starting point. Moody, Germanic nocturnes like "Nightclubbing" and "Sister Midnight" were the best parts of Sunday's show, thanks largely to Iggy's remarkably strong, dark croon.
Overall, though, the concert was an uneven blend of old and new. The primal rockers were offered with efficiency, but Iggy just doesn't have the physical attributes to deliver the kinetic goods. His singing itself was fine at all speeds, but he needs a band that can bite and blaze on the rockers, and can shade the ballads with droning menace. His current four-piece crew had some drive, but lacked much power and range.
The real problem with the show was its poor pacing. It's one thing to emphasize the midtempo and slow songs, but Sunday's set bogged down and virtually ground to a halt. On top of that, Iggy didn't seem especially communicative, remaining a remote and somewhat perfunctory figure. Not one of his greatest nights, but he's rebounded from worse.