Ninety nine Red Balloons and one big problem: Singer Nena’s concert cancelled after Covid-19 comments

The singer is attracting criticism after opposition to Germany’s pandemic restrictions

Erik Kirschbaum
Thursday 19 August 2021 10:58
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<p>German singer Nena </p>

German singer Nena

German pop star Nena won’t be singing about 99 Red Balloons or anything else this week in Bavaria after her concert in the southern town of Tüssling scheduled for Thursday evening was abruptly cancelled by its organisers – because of her increasingly vocal opposition to the government’s COVID-19 policies and unabashed flirtation with anti-vaxxers.

Explaining its decision to scrap the concert at the last minute, the organizer in Bavaria said: “It can’t be denied any longer that Nena is quite evidently a supporter of certain ideologies”, according to a report in the Passauer Neue Presse newspaper.

The organiser said that there had been “more negative headlines in recent weeks” following her celebrated participation in a controversial open-air party “of the unvaccinated” with 4,000 coronavirus deniers on Saturday in a small southern town at Lake Katzenbach.

“Hello sweethearts – it’s good to be here with you,” she told the anti-vaxxers.

The organisers then pulled the plug for Nena’s concert in Bavaria and other cancellations may follow, according to German media reports.

“Did Nena just destroy her career with the dubious appearances of the last few weeks?” asked the Abendzeitung newspaper in Munich.

“We aim to spread joy and positive vibes with our concerts," the Tüssling concert organiser Oliver Forster said in a statement. "This would have become difficult after the latest developments, so this step is unavoidable. This shouldn’t be a political stage.”

Nena, 61, has been Germany’s most successful singers and songwriters for decades following her global hit “99 Red Balloons” in 1983 that warned ominously of the nuclear annihilation that could accidently be triggered during the Cold War between the United States with its allies and the Soviet Union with its allies.

She has sold more than 25 million records during her long career, making her Germany’s most successful recording artist.

In a post on her Facebook page on Wednesday, Nena wrote: “I don’t follow any ideology and reject everything that brings hate, fear and division. I remain open to meeting people, without bias.”

Nena, now a grandmother whose music still strikes a chord with multiple generations, has been rather incongruously sending public messages of support to groups protesting the government’s corona restrictions through since last October.

She criticised the “inhumane conditions prevailing” due to lockdown measures and thanked demonstrators at a large rally in Kassel in March for standing up to the government.

At an open-air concert in Berlin last month Nena implored the audience to disregard social-distancing boxes set up to keep the crowd spaced apart, urging them to gather closer together in front of her stage.

She later told the crowd that the organisers was threatening to cancel the show if they didn’t spread back out but hinted they should stay put.

“I’ll leave it to your sense of responsibility to decide if you want to do that or not. Everyone is free to make their own decision just as everyone can make a free decision whether to get vaccinated or not.”

She later urged the crowd to “Take back your freedom!” The concert was ended without any encores.

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