Iggy Pop has had a nearly five-decade recording career, stretching all the way back to 1969’s self-titled debut by primal ur-punk outfit the Stooges and encompassing some 17 albums as a solo act. You wouldn’t know it from his performance at the Orpheum on Monday, which could have been viewed as a middle finger to those hoping for a cruise through his catalog. With the lone exception of a single soundtrack cut, Pop drew from exactly three albums over the course of two hours and 22 songs.
It was the choice of albums that perhaps spoke volumes of what’s on the singer’s mind at the moment. Skipping everything between his 1977 solo LPs, “The Idiot” and “Lust for Life,” and the new “Post Pop Depression” created a bracing career-bookends set that lent credence to Pop’s recent press murmurings about retirement.
Then again, Pop’s words can’t always be taken at face value. Mid-encore, he introduced heavy R&B thumper “Chocolate Drops” as both a quiet number (which it wasn’t) and as the final song (which actually came two songs later).
Fronting a group substantially made up of Queens of the Stone Age members dressed like the devil’s house band — black shirts and trousers, with red lamé tuxedo jackets — Pop took the stage in nothing but black pants and a blazer that came off soon enough. Still spry but with a lopsided gait that didn’t seem like a performance choice, he was in constant motion: crouching, crowd-surfing, contorting, flinging himself across the stage. Even hanging on the microphone stand or gazing intensely on the crowd during “The Passenger,” or simply locking into the eastern modes of “Break Into Your Heart,” he was focused, not tired. His energy faltered only for “Gardenia,” as if he needed to regain momentum after the encore break.
But it’s not as though he hadn’t come out bounding to the impossibly huge whomp of “Lust for Life,” sneering out his lyrics with gusto right from the start. The mechanistic deliberateness of “Mass Production” and the supremely energetic “Sixteen” both still sounded dangerous, and “Repo Man” felt like a car speeding the wrong way down a busy freeway. With Pop’s chesty, wobbly baritone still strong and his spirit fired up, the triumphant sarcasm of the show-closing “Success” might not have been sarcasm after all.
With Noveller. At Orpheum Theatre, April 11Marc Hirsh can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.