Christa Päffgen was better known to the world as Nico, the German-born art-rock chanteuse who lent her haunting vocals to the Velvet Underground’s most seminal work and carved out a deeply influential solo career. Though she passed away nearly 25 years ago, her work (especially The Velvet Underground & Nico and her 1967 solo debut Chelsea Girl) still echoes with incredible resonance. Her style inspired multiple generations of Goth acts, quirky-voiced art belters like Bjork, and filmmakers like Wes Anderson (who used two Chelsea Girl recordings during key moments in The Royal Tennenbaums; it could be argued that Gwyneth Paltrow’s character in that movie was at least partially inspired by Nico herself).
Friend and frequent collaborator John Cale, a founding member of the Velvet Underground and producer of several Nico solo albums, recognizes her impact better than anybody. That is why Cale produced last night’s show Life Along the Borderline: A Tribute to Nico at the Brooklyn Academy of Music as part of their Next Wave Festival. For a sense of how deeply Nico’s songs have been felt, one need only look at the lineup of guests and collaborators who filled BAM’s Gilman Opera House: Sonic Youth founder Kim Gordon, Sharon Van Etten, Afghan Whigs frontman Greg Dulli, the Kills singer Alison Mosshart, Joan as Police Woman, Peaches, and Brooklyn indie groovers Yeasayer.
Nico’s songs offer a lot of unique opportunities: Most of them are made up of very few elements, which allowed many of last night’s interpreters to deconstruct those elements and glue them back together at strange angles. READ FULL STORY