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POP MUSIC REVIEWS : A Dark and Petulant Nina Hagen

July 29, 1994|MIKE BOEHM

SAN JUAN CAPISTRANO — Now that grim, flannel-clad brutes have taken over, it's hard to find a touch of eccentricity and campy whimsicality in rock.

Re-enter Nina Hagen, who has been carving out a persona of dizzy, cartoonish flamboyance since the early days of new wave in the late '70s.

The tour that brought her to the Coach House on Wednesday night is something of a comeback for Hagen, although she has kept up a steady recording pace, with the new "Revolution Ballroom" her third album in the past five years.

At 39, Hagen may have been out of the spotlight, but she obviously hasn't been out of touch. She knows that dark and petulant is in, and that was the tone she set at the start of her 75-minute concert before lightening up later on.

With cover material that included the Ramones, Sid Vicious, Ian Dury and two Nirvana songs (plus a loopy country ode to "Kurtie baby . . . in the sky"), Hagen seemed intent on proffering her credentials as a godmother of punk.

It's no easy task she has set for herself, riding the old new wave, showing solidarity with its '90s heirs, and at the same time trying to do justice to her own diversity and eccentricity. With a serviceable but nondescript band proving no great help, the results were scattered but sometimes colorful.

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