Friday, October 7, 2011

Nico - An Underground Experience / Heroine: Review

This week begins a new series on Life On This Planet - Concert Film Of The Day. I will be watching 5 live concert videos and then featuring one every day this week. Keep up on my daily postings by clicking LIKE over at the Life On This Planet Blog Page on Facebook.

For the price of one DVD, you get two concerts on Nico - An Underground Experience + Heroine. The first one is at an underground punk club with her full band, and the second at Manchester's Library Theatre.

Part 1: An Underground Experience.
An Underground Experience begins with a very 'dazed' Nico taking a deep, close-eyed drag from a cigarette, while the band launches into 'I'm Waiting For The Man,' from her old band, The Velvet Underground. The arrangements and instrumentation are very similar to that of her early 80s album, Drama Of Exile.

As you watch the performance, you can't help but be drawn into Nico's distant, slightly crazed eyes. The first real sign of emotion comes with the performance of one she sang with The Velvets, Femme Fatale. She pours her heart into it, closing her eyes and gently swaying. It's a beautiful moment.

Towards the end of this gig, an awkward interview interrupts the program with a nervous voice asking Nico silly questions about wearing sunglasses in The Velvets, drugs and Andy Warhol. In the background, you can hear Bowie's version of Jacques Brel's 'Port Of Amsterdam' as Nico tells the interviewer that her only regret in life is that she was born a woman.

The set closes with a cover of Bowie's 'Heroes,' ala the version that appears on her 1981's Drama Of Exile, and the song Saeta. Don't listen to the reviews saying the sound is bad - the audio is fine - the only glitches are some missing video frames where a few photo stills stand in for a couple of seconds.

Part 2: Heroine
The second concert is quite a contrast. Filmed at Manchester's Library Theatre, except for some minor accents, the entire concert is predominantly Nico with her harmonium as accompaniment. She opens with 'My Heart Is Empty,' which will eventually appear on her final album, 1985's Camera Obscura.

Nico looks relaxed in this setting and performs an intense, a cappella version of another song she sang with the Velvets - 'All Tomorrow's Parties.' The German song 'Mutterlein' sounds strong, but the best moment of the show is 'Afraid,' one of the saddest and most beautiful songs of all time - 'You are beautiful and you are alone.'

Another of my favorite Nico tracks, 'Frozen Warnings,' sounds particularly chilling in this environment. For the show closure, she steps away from her harmonium, to front the band in a jazzy rendition of 'Femme Fatale.' This part of the DVD lasts for just under an hour.

If you click on the bonus features, you'll enjoy another backstage interview with Nico, her discography and a life history. There isn't much footage of live Nico floating around out there, so be sure to grab this for your collection. [Scroll down for purchase link]

An Underground Experience Track Listing:  I'm Waiting For The Man / Vegas / 60-40 / All Tomorrow's Parties / Femme Fatale / Heroes / Saeta

Heroine Track Listing:  My Heart Is Empty / Procession / All Tomorrow's Parties / Valley Of The Kings / The Sphinx / We've Got The Gold / Mutterlein / Afraid / Innocent And Vain / Frozen Warnings / Fearfully In Danger / Tanamore / Femme Fatale

If you're a vinyl enthusiast, check out our feature on the Spin Clean Vinyl Record Cleaning Machine (click image below)

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