Saturday, January 15, 2005

Nina Hagen in Vancouver

(Hey y'all: this is a first draft, written at 1 AM, when I'm still feelin' the effects of five-or-was-it-six double rye'n'cokes, ordered as a tribute to a chick I almost slept with earlier this week). Thoughts on the Nina Hagen concert:

1. Nina Hagen has sexy feet. Big tits, too. I kept staring at her feet from where I leaned at the front of the stage. White, small, expressive toes, deep red toenails, yowza. She'd come out in this tall patent-I-think-leather platform boots and danced around for awhile in them (initially inspiring the illusion that she was much taller than one expected her to be, unlike, say, Iggy Pop, who is much shorter); but they seemed to be causing her grief hitting the vox effects pedal and at some point, she stripped them off, tore her stockings to expose her toes, and danced around mostly barefoot on the Commodore Stage until the soles of her cute feet were black and grimy. Much like her periodic bra-adjustments (who knew that she was stacked?), it was very distracting. I kept imagining myself backstage, sucking her toes. She is One Hot 50 Year Old. Believe me, I know; I've been with a hot 50 year old and Nina Hagen was hotter. Better feet, too. But the one I was with went down on me, so she was better really.

Nina knows she's hot, too. She even rolled on her back at one point and bicycled up in the air. I half expected her to break out a blanket and crawl naked across the stage for her next number.

2. For all her political correctness, Nina Hagen fucked with the best thing Kurt Cobain ever wrote and midway thru the show rendered herself permanently suspect in my eyes. Look, I ain't gay. I mean, sure, I had my adolescent quasi-homosexual I'll-show-you-mine experiment, and I once spent a day wandering around the suburbs of Coquitlam trying to locate the address of a guy who had offered to go down on me, which apparently didn't exist, thereby fucking up my one moment where the desire for a blowjob overrode my inner homophobe. Generally, tho', it seems less complicated to play it straight, and so I do. That said, I have always been (bein' a bit of a misfit myself, and growing up in a suburb where punks like me were liable to get beaten up as a "faggot" regardless of our sexual preference, and many's the time I've had that word applied to me) sympathetic to th' whole queer rights thing, and as such, I always kinda admired Kurt Cobain for his "everyone is gay" line in "All Apologies." Cobain doesn't seem that important to me (sorry, Kurt), and he wasn't that interesting a singer/songwriter/musician, even less so an interesting martyr (I nominate Phil Ochs, Albert Ayler and mebbe Elliot Smith as the most interesting pop musician martyrs of the 2oth C); but that was still a nice touch, a little queer-friendly bit of politicking in the guise of a pop song (I mean, I even admired Rob Halford for coming out on MTV and completely mindfucking legions of submoronic Judas Priest fans who Somehow Never Noticed, while Rob strutted around in biker gear, singing "Hell Bent for Leather"). If I had some celebrity, I'd do much the same now and then, drop the odd "let's-see-if-we-can-get-this-on-the-radio" line; even in my ESL classes, I routinely do a lesson around queer-bashing and the song "Glad to be Gay" as a consciousness-raiser for my more prejudiced Asian students. I approve of the moral impulse that I assume Kurt felt. And it's a good lyric. Now, then:

a) It is somewhat SUSPECT to begin with that Nina would cover a Nirvana song, in my book. Patti Smith does the same thing -- "Heart Shaped Box" is the tune I've seen her play live -- and it really does suggest some sucky-uppy "validate the youth culture" calculated-kinda move for a, shall we say, less CURRENT old-fart-cashin'-in to make; I didn't really need or buy it, thanks.

b) But if you're gonna do it, you gotta have the guts for the gesture. In the same way that I kinda lost a big chunk o' respect for Leonard Cohen when he MTV'd his lyric in "The Future," "give me crack and anal sex" into "give me speed and careless sex" for the purposes of public performance (delivering the cop-out version even when I saw him live in Vancouver on The Future tour, where he could have easily delivered the original), I had to recoil and step back and ponder whether and how to judge Nina tonight: for she rendered "Everyone is gay" into "Everything's okay." No fucking way! I mean, feel my wrath, here: how can you CASTRATE A DEAD MAN, however negligible in the big picture, while cashing in on his songs' appeal? Why even PERFORM the song if you're going to mutilate it -- as a token of disrespect? Or because "none of these things really matter anyhow?" It was not acceptible. And nor was it, if you're thinking, an ad-lib: Nina had these huge lyric sheets on stage, where other artists might have a setlist, and I was able to peer over and see that this was exactly how she'd written out the words. No, Nina, everything is not okay.

Which is really puzzling (that she would either be afraid of a pro-gay statement or disapprove of it enough to need to alter it, which are the assumptions I'm running on here) because:

3. Nina Hagen is clearly some kind of politically correct, New Agey flake. I mean, as much as I generally play along with this stuff -- my night job is at a bookstore with a huge New Age/ self-help section, so I'm obliged to -- she made quite an effort to cover the bases, tonight: she talked about the Amazon rain forest and how Christ is a tree, even gave a little between-song rap on Louise L. Hay (pet peeve of mine: FUCK Louise L. Hay, and her goddamn dumb dogmatic moronic charts: pain in your left testicle means you think too much with your right brain, and being willing to buy into Hay's shtick means you're an emotional and mental pussy with no capacity to survive; I'll be cheering from the sidelines when the big machines roll down the hill to crush you). (Okay, that's a bit negative, but I've been listening to recent George Carlin records in the last year so I have an excuse). She did this (celebrating Ms. Hay) before singing some song about how you should "refuse your chemicals" and heal yourself without buying into the corrupt medical establishment. Much as I can appreciate the suspicion o' western medicine, I did have one friend who refused treatment of a cancer that eventually killed her because she thought she could beat it by such a route. (Plus I daily supplement my lagging thyroid with synthroid, and so what if I do?). I don't think I quite buy the whole shtick, think it's a bit irresponsible, howevermuch it's a sentiment that people are willing to cheer, and just a tad simplistic. Nina had a whole bunch of more easily digested, easily approved-of messages to offer us during the course of the evening -- that the planet is female and that the men who are destroying it resent this (I dare anyone to publicly disagree); that people should just free themselves and express themselves and be who they are (okay, I guess I gotta go along with that one), that women should unite and seize their power and... what is "demagogue" in German, anyhow? But, oh, I guess she really means it. She's in this week's Terminal City talking about a UFO giving her a special private light show -- I imagine she's sincere about all this stuff, which I guess makes it okay. And the express-yourself-be-yourself kinda message was kinda touching even to a cynic like me. Still, and this is the point of this whole rant, why de-queer Kurt's lyric, if these are her, um, politics?

4. But fuck me for casting aspersions, because: Nina pleased her fans. Except me, I guess. It was a fun night but it didn't exactly roll me over onto my back, even with five (six?) double rye-cokes in me. What she could have done to please me: occasionally she would blow her nose -- she had a bit of a cold, y'see -- and she would always make a point of tossing her snotty tissues away from the audience. I would have had more fun with the night if she'd let me get my hands on one. It would be fun to sell it on eBay; I'm sure I coulda paid this month's phone bill with it, at least. The fact that she made sure I couldn't do this (I guess there are some lows that you just don't wanna see your fandom stoop to) and the fact that there's no way in hell I'll ever lick those cute toes of hers means that I just didn't have the time I could have had at the show, and I'm going to be a bit sour grapes about it for awhile. All that aside, even with relatively few of her "hits" in the set ("NY NY" and "African Reggae" and a set closer of the German version of "White Punks on Dope," but no "Cosmo Shiva," no "Smack Jack," not even a "Universal Radio;"), Nina had the audience dancing and cheering and eating out of the palm of her (dainty white) hands. Her Mabel Longhetti facial mannerisms (she even blew a raspberry at one point to dismiss some right wing POV), her bouncy dark pigtails and leopardy-type semi-translucent leggings (or whatever they were), her overall buoyancy and energy, her occasional forays into oldtime boogiewoogie and blues -- her shtick was a crowd pleaser, and amusing enough, I suppose. Two thumbs up, four stars, and an erection when I think about her toes. I'm not entirely sure, mind you, what exactly was being bought and what was being sold -- an image of a sort of ideal, set free on stage so we can briefly celebrate it and thereby more easily tolerate our dayjobs? -- but clearly everyone was satisfied with the transaction; even Nina seemed to have fun. I dunno, it was just one of those concerts where I think all the time about the suspect aspects of the rock and roll transaction and go home thinking I've somehow been cheated, even tho' everything was exactly what you'd expect a rock concert to be.

Hey, DJ-My-Gay-Husband (or whatever) played the Slits version of "Heard it Thru the Grapevine!" One to find on Soulseek. And Bakelite were pretty good, too, but I'm not gonna try to say anything about them. Bet they have some Joy Division records in their collection.

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