Road to Nowhere
by Jan Kedves - taz (tageszeitung)
November 18, 2006
Pop takes you further than you might think: The American Young-@-Heart-Chorus proves it in the Festspiele-Haus
To grow old with pop, that sounds like a recipe against ageing. Maybe in the future it should become the duty of every retired person to join a pop-choir. That’s what the members of the American Young @ Heart Chorus from Northampton, Massachusetts have long since done. Instead of musical choices preferred by the elderly, they sing the Rolling Stones, The Clash or Roxy Music.
Singing of course has a therapeutic value that should not be underestimated. It massages the diaphragm and the memorization of lyrics keeps the mind fit. But Young @ Heart wants more than that: Knowing that pop songs, especially nihilistic ones, can be applied to all kinds of things, they remorselessly use them for a re-reading with regard to ailment and death. As a matter of fact, it really does sound completely different if it is not the Talking Heads but a group aged 74 to 94 which cheerfully sings: “We’re on a road to nowhere”.
At the beginning of Young @ Heart’s guest performance in the house of the Berlin Festival ones head could spin from the impertinence with which the chorus members sing about their own upcoming demise and the arduous way to it. They did stay away from “Highway to Hell”, but other than that almost nothing, from fatigue, to loosing ones eyesight, to insomnia, was left out: For an almost sold out house they performed “I’m so tired” by the Beatles, “Dancing in the Dark” by Bruce Springsteen, “I’m All Lost in the Supermarket” by The Clash and “I Wanna Be Sedated” by the Ramones. To this they moved through a set that is a reproduction of their rehearsal space in Northampton, in a staging that is perfectly fitted to their individual level of fitness.
Always at the center of things: Eileen Hall, with 93 years the oldest of the Young @ Heart members. She resides center-stage and the bright-green tag from airport customs shows that she is bloody proud to be traveling the world. Sometimes one might think that she fell asleep, until she opened her eyes wide once more to cheekily ask: “Should I stay or should I go?” “Stay!” the audience replied and got out of their seats for standing ovations, filled with awe, one had to, well, let go of all concerns that Young @ Heart might be a cheap gimmick or the most cruel symptom of the non-existent American social insurance system.