Dienstag, 23. Juli 2019

Nico - Chelsea Live

Nico's performance at London's Chelsea Town Hall on August 9, 1985, shows a woman of 46 dipping into her surprisingly vast catalogue to offer a dark and often heavy concert, a mix of solo material and songs with a synth-drenched rock band. Nico's renowned stentorian voice is even deeper and louder than ever, booming all over the messy, percussive arrangements, sometimes veering dangerously close to the borderlines of tunefulness, but still it adds to the atmosphere and the overall framework of the performance.

The set picks out only three songs from the most recent album, those being the stark, menacing opener "Tananore," the slinking, synth-influenced "Fearfully in Danger," and "My Heart is Empty," which is part of a cycle of solo songs on harmonium here, rather than the band arrangement on the studio album. Nico also dips into her other '80s venture,Drama of Exile, on quite altered versions of "Sixty-Forty," "Purple Lips," and "One More Chance," where it seems as if the whole arrangement has been overturned and instead built on '80s synth effects. She offers a glimpse of those songs before they acquired their exotic Arabic production on the original album, on a solo rendition of "The Sphinx," which loses much of its melody and beauty when performed on harmonium alone.

The harmonium is Nico's primary instrument, and she used it for composing ever since she first learned to play it in the late '60s. It offers up treats as well as nightmares, with Nico often finding beautiful, hypnotic melodies as well as depressing medieval dirges. "Procession" is in the former category, a song of mournful majesty with some hypnotic, simple synth work. The much older "Janitor of Lunacy" finds Nico reaching higher notes, and "You Forget to Answer" is unremittingly bleak but has more melodic movement. There's also a return to harmonium for her off-kilter, epic cover of "The End" by The Doors. She also covers the songs of Lou Reed from The Velvet Underground and Nico, which she participated in in 1966. She offers a simple but powerful "a cappello" reading of "All Tomorrow's Parties," and is joined by stark piano on a somewhat out of place but still entertaining "Femme Fatale."

This live recording has good sound, and Nico offers a reasonably wide glimpse of her catalogue, although she keeps away from her very earliest solo material. These songs became her stock live favourites in her later years, the busiest years of her career. After her re-emergence, she was championed by the rock press and by post-punk advocates, and, perhaps in a bid to fund her heroin habit, she took any concert going, remaining admirably active right until the month before her death in the summer of 1988. The band here is synthy, as befits an '80s rock combo, but often quite messy as well, particularly on "Sãeta," one of her most hypnotic, beautiful compositions. But, still, it's an entertaining artefact of Nico's live career in those heady 1980s.


1 Tananore 6:33
2 One More Chance 7:27
3 Procession 4:17
4 My Heart's Empty 5:00
5 Janitor Of Lunacy 4:28
6 The Sphinx 3:10
7 You Forget To Answer 3:38
8 Fearfully In Danger 4:48
9 Sixty Forty 4:35
10 All Tomorrow's Parties 3:10
11 Purple Lips 3:59
12 Femme Fatale 4:22
13 Saeta 6:22
14 The End 9:17

(320 kbps, cover art included)

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