With his career having stretched over more than 40 years, Iggy Pop has experienced a lifetime of ups and downs. From his time as a Stooge to his multiple comebacks (and subsequent flops) as a solo performer, his many incarnations have been well-documented, with countless disks of unfinished material, alternative mixes and pseudo-legit live recordings being released to his seemingly insatiable fans. It’s as if he’s done his best to defy his own proclamation of being “the world’s forgotten boy” as he certainly hasn’t been overlooked, at least for the last few decades.
So what’s one more four-disc set of Iggy live recordings then? Depending on your point of view, it’s either entirely inconsequential or another essential puzzle piece in the intricate portrait of Iggy’s life as a performer. With Roadkill Rising, one can certainly make a case for the latter. Each of the four CDs capture the Real Wild Child in a different decade beginning with the ’70s and ending with the ’00s. With each passing year came new records and new backing bands, and as such, we hear Iggy metamorphosize from one slithery rock being to the next right before our ears. Sure, he’ll always be a streetwalking cheetah, but he also took on many other skins as his career progressed (and at times, regressed).
The greatest problem with this set is the general lack of information. All we really get is the where and the when that each track was recorded. No credits for backing musicians or info on the source of each “bootleg” is included. Sure, with a little research, one can figure out that it was guitarist Ricky Gardiner, the Sales brothers and David Bowie backing Iggy for the first 12 songs on the first CD, but such information should be included. And as the recording quality varies greatly over the set (but is generally pretty top-notch), your guess is as good as mine as the origination of these tapes.
But the proof, as they say, is in the pudding, or perhaps in this case, the peanut butter. Those cuts taken from Pop’s 1977 tour in support of The Idiot with Bowie, the album’s producer, are particularly astonishing. While the selections lean—as most of Roadkill does—to the Stooges material, the cuts from The Idiot and the then still forthcoming Lust for Life, “Funtime” and “Tonight,” respectively, are the real thrills here. Two years later, Pop was now touring with a new band of punks, including guitarist Brian James (The Damned) and bassist Glen Matlock (Sex Pistols). This was a particularly potent line-up and their takes on “New Values” and “Play It Safe” are some of the best performances in the set.
By the ’80s, though, Pop’s band wasn’t as notable and so things get a little hit and miss. His battle with a Detroit audience in 1980 is amusing if not illuminating, while he delivers a notably riveting take of “Loose” in a set captured at New York’s defunct Club 1018 (so named because it was on 10th Avenue and 18th Street) in 1987. Similarly, the version of “Lust for Life” recorded in Berlin in 1991, is full of the spunk that Pop has never ceased to possess, even after turning 60. Versions of “The Passenger” and “TV Eye” recorded in 1994, though, are spoiled by flat playing by his backers.
In 2003, Pop reunited with Ron and Scott Asheton, and here the Stooges are captured performing “Dirt” that year in France. The recording is a little rough, but not so much that the essence of this great rendition of the song doesn’t shine through. Better yet is “Real Cool Time” recorded in 2007 in England. Even “My Idea of Fun,” from the Stooges’ 2007 record, The Weirdness, sounds pretty awesome.
The set ends on an odd note: Iggy on French radio performing some of the cuts from Preliminaires, his 2009 album of swinging, jazzy material. While the five tracks don’t exactly jibe with the rest of the set, they do little to diminish its overall impact. Besides, anyone familiar enough with Iggy’s oeuvre to be acquiring Roadkill Rising has already come to expect a bumpy ride.