Review: Chicago Sun-Times

With Love; Cobain Widow Delivers Heartfelt, Cathartic Set
September 5, 1994, by Jim DeRogatis

‘I got some credit in the straight world,” Courtney Love sang Saturday night at the U.I.C. Pavilion. “I lost a leg. I lost an eye.”

Outside rock circles, Love has grown in stature since the suicide of her husband, Nirvana leader Kurt Cobain, and the death of Kristen Pfaff, the bassist in her band, Hole.

The singer recently appeared on the covers of two major magazines in flattering profiles that labeled her “a survivor.” Not a bad turnaround for a woman previously portrayed as the most hated rock wife since Yoko Ono.

But people who bothered to listen to Love before her husband’s death already knew the Oregon native was an intense performer with a captivating vocal growl. Maybe Cobain convinced her to emphasize songcraft on Hole’s second album, “Live Through This.” But Love has always had the songs in her.

Sandwiched between forgettable openers Marilyn Manson and overhyped headliners Nine Inch Nails on Saturday, Hole performed its first major U.S. show since Cobain’s death derailed the tour to support “Live Through This.”

The band — which included a new bassist from Montreal — needed several songs to shake off the cobwebs. The sound was initially a muddy mess, and Love was tormented by a guitar that kept cutting out.

But midway through the 10-song set, by the time Love covered the Young Marble Giants’ “Credit in the Straight World,” the sound had crystallized into a furious catharsis.

Love’s plaintive wails were spurred on by Eric Erlandson’s monstrous guitar riffs and Patty Schemel’s rock-steady drumming. Especially effective were “Doll Parts,” “Violet” and a new song in which Love pleaded for “her beautiful son” to “come back, come back to me.”

The tune was clearly inspired by Cobain, as was the set-closer, a version by Love and Erlandson of the haunting Appalachian folk song, “In the Pines.” (Nirvana covered the tune on MTV’s “Unplugged.”)

At the end of the song, Love smashed her guitar and amp in retaliation for the sound problems. Reflexively, she jumped into the crowd, emerging a minute later with her white party dress torn to shreds and a big smile on her face.

The scene recalled Nirvana’s last Chicago performance at the Aragon, but Love wasn’t just aping her husband. Like Cobain at his best, she had seized the moment and made it her own.