Nena at the Garage, Highbury, London, 3.5.2010.
I think I’ve figured it out now – this event was really a therapy session to help us cope with the double embarrassment of being German and on the wrong side of 40. Tellingly, Nena included a song about each of these issues in her recent album, but played neither of them at this gig. “Made in Germany” wasn’t on the setlist, while “In meinem Leben” was, but was dropped as it didn’t fit the mood.
The audience consisted mainly of Germans (with the odd British partner in tow), and most must have been born in the 60s. Which would have been obvious to anybody looking at the queue outside the venue for two minutes, but apparently nobody told the musicians. After the first song (SchönSchönSchön from the new album), Nena addressed the audience in English, and set out to explain who she was (I’m that chick from the 80s), raising nothing but an amused chuckle from those of us who have known her for 28 years now.
Then the band went on to play her (or, strictly speaking her original band’s) debut track, Nur geträumt, dating from May 1982, and were practically blown off the stage by the audience response. They very clearly hadn’t expected that from a gig in a country where Nena is only remembered as a one-hit-wonder, if at all. “Woher kennt ihr das denn?” asked a very dazed and confused Nena.
The treatment of Nur geträumt, along with 99 Luftballons later in the show, shed some light on the age-related part of the therapy. Back in 2002, in a concert celebrating the 20th anniversary of that debut, she tried to destroy and reconstruct the old songs, which in my view didn’t work all that well. This time round, she played them pretty much faithful to the original versions, only slightly de-80-fied, and re-energised. So, as one tends to do around this time in life, she seems to have made peace with her more youthful self. Embarrassment No. 1 overcome.
Another interesting aspect of the age issue being resolved is that two of her children appeared on stage that night. Daughter Larissa, 19, appeared unannounced as singer of the support band “Adam & Eva,” but it took only a couple of lines to put 2 and 2 (i.e. her voice and her nose) together and figure out who she was. Larissa’s twin brother Sakias appeared as vocalist with Nena, this time with proper acknowledgement (and not unexpected, as he appears on the album as well).
Work on the second trauma, being “Made in Germany” is condensed in the title track of the album. In London she only picked up the sentiment in one or two announcements, referring to a song as very typically German, and pointing out that it wasn’t her fault. But the audience being either tourists or expats, we were of course acutely aware of this. We even managed to queue from the wrong side of the entrance – that wouldn’t have happened to a native British crowd.
The set ended with the 90s piece Liebe ist – by that time, the artists had managed to get their heads around the fact that this was essentially a home game 1000 km away from home. Still, it must have been a very different experience from the concerts in Germany, where they play large arenas with a more mixed crowd. Here, there were maybe 400 people, and there had been practically no advertising, so only people with an active interest would have known about the concert in the first place.
I could have easily missed it, in fact. What happened was that during my travel in Germany in April, I came across the video of In meinem Leben in a hotel room. This was rather curious experience as well, as I found myself covered in goosebumps several seconds before my conscious brain caught up and figured out what I was listening to. Because of the video, I bought the Made in Germany album, and as I liked that as well, I checked the website on my return, and found the info about the London concert.
Anyhow, a bunch of very happy musicians dropping with sweat played 99 Luftballons (original German version, the English version is rubbish in comparison), and another 80s classic, Irgendwie, Irgendwo, Irgendwann. The last encore should have been In meinem Leben, but as they didn’t want to dampen the exuberant mood of the evening, we got a second playing of Nur geträumt instead.
Which was a bit unfortunate, as I had hoped to take a few illegal photos during the quieter piece (staff were quite fiercely stopping people from taking pix, but I had a plan). But it never happened, so all I have is a picture of the tour bus, and of the empty stage before the show: