Sunday, April 25, 2010

Hole is Reborn

I approached the Henry Fonda Theater on Friday with some trepidation. The return of Hole seemed likely to be a trainwreck. I was just hoping it would be an entertaining one, like the one in The Fugitive, as opposed to one where I'd have to avert my eyes.

I caught the last couple songs of the opening act, Little Fish. The singer seemed like she had been cut out of the Courtney Love mold, except British. She had a pretty enthralling barbaric yawp.

Courtney emerged after an operatic overture, right on time, surprisingly. She was backed by the all-new Hole. There was also a guitarist on the side of the stage covering for the notes she missed or when she was too overwhelmed to strum. She introduced the rest of the band but told us he wasn't really there.

The first song was "Pretty on the Inside" which morphed into "Sympathy for the Devil" - quite a ballsy start. The show was less than an hour, which is pretty typical for Hole, but it was packed with classic material and songs from the new album Nobody's Daughter, due out on Tuesday.

At one point, a fan asked for "Gold Dust Woman" and she said they could play it. After some guitar changing, they took on the challenge of recreating the cover tune, and it was awesome. I remembered that it was Hole's version of that tune that made me want to start listening to Fleetwood Mac and now the
Rumours CD never leaves my car's CD changer.

Hearing "Violet", "Miss World", and "Doll Parts" again brought up a lot of memories. I practically wore out my
Live Through This CD in 1994-96. The first time I went to a concert by myself was due to a compulsion to not miss the show when Hole came to town, so I ventured to a small club in St. Louis - Mississippi Nights - by myself. I remember seeing Courtney walk in with Frances Bean in her arms. Both mother and daughter were wearing ratty fur coats. This was less than a year after Kurt's suicide. The set was raw and fierce, and Courtney slammed St. Louis with the comment: "I can see why T.S. Eliot left."

She revisited "Malibu" and "Celebrity Skin" off the
Celebrity Skin album, and I recalled seeing her play at a college in Connecticut in 1998 in support of that album. She was transformed into a smoother, prettier Hollywood wannabe. I didn't like that Courtney as much, although the music was still good.

The current Courtney seems a mix of the two. She looks like she's had quite a bit of work done. Her hair started out as a almost too-perfect bob that made me think of Anjelica Huston's sleek do, but as the show progressed it got mussed and tucked haphazardly behind her ears and she looked like the old Courtney. She joked that the gown she was wearing had originally been intended to be worn to an Oscars show. It was a beautiful gray dress, but she wore a too-small black bra under it and was busting out all over - still a juxtaposition of the glamorous and the trashy.

I have to say I liked some of the new songs. "Skinny Little Bitch" recalled the catty Riot Grrl early Hole songs, while "Pacific Coast Highway" is more of a melodic pop song like "Malibu" although with lyrics like "I'm driving down the Pacific Coast Highway with your gun in my hand" it's not exactly pop. Courtney brought out Linda Perry, who wrote some of the new material, to play keyboard on one of the new songs. The new album promises to include a lot of meditation on Kurt's death and her various struggles with family, daughter, and substances.

I had a great time at the show. It was fun to relive all the old songs with a crowd of rabid fans shouting out the lyrics. There was even some crowd surfing! It definitely felt like a return to the 90s. I'll pick up the new album. I'm not sure how this comeback will go. I can't see her getting through a whole tour, as it seems like it was taking all her energy to complete this 50-minute set. There didn't seem to be much chemistry between Courtney and the new band, and I definitely missed Eric and Melissa. But, hey, good for Courtney for giving it another go.

After ending with an acoustic version of "Northern Star," Courtney commented, "That wasn't so terrible, was it?" No, Courtney, not terrible, but not awesome either.

My review of Hole's 1998 concert

My Courtney Love Choose Your Own Adventure, written in 2000

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