There was a wide-ranging bunch of rock concerts in town last night, but those who chose rock 'n' roll diva Nina Hagen's outlandish show at the Warner Theatre got a taste of all of them, all rolled into one East German fireball.
Talk about mind-body dualism: Hagen's preposterous pastiche of rock/punk/reggae/electro/Broadway/horror flick was superimposed on an inescapably physical rhythmic base.
Cheerfully plundering the song styles of a century (she must travel to other planets for some of her material), the operatically trained Hagen, who calls herself "the mother of punk" in one song, is kind of an Yma Sumac for the '80s, possessed of a range that careens unpredictably from Sensurround rumbles to stratospheric squeals, and includes jammed-brake screeches, helium giggles, rain forest birdcalls and a Mercedes McCambridge "Exorcist" growl.
Hagen performs with an unbridled theatricality, resembling, in her Kabuki makeup, Day-Glo wigs and Jayne Mansfield/Jane Jetson costumes, the heroine of a fantasy comic book. As a glimmering spaceship descended, sweeping the audience with searchlights, the metal breastplates of Hagen's brassiere suddenly emitted beams of light as she sang "U.F.O." Then she tucked in a voluminous red veil and began a shotgun wedding of Michael Jackson's "Beat It" with the "Habanera" aria from "Carmen," while gyrating like a go-go girl. That was only the second song -- Hagen had yet to quote Dietrich, Brecht/Weill and Carmen Miranda, and belt "My Way" (in German). You get the idea.
Opening for Hagen were go-go homeboys Trouble Funk, who not only warmed up the crowd, but got them sweating and chanting with their absolutely infectious audience-included schtick. The 75-minute nonstop rhythmic workout seemed interminable only to those who didn't participate.