Review: Houston Chronicle

Halloween Audience Lives Through Love Antics, Music
November 2, 1994, by Rick Mitchell

Courtney Love took a sloppy gulp of something stiff from a paper cup, followed by a long drag off the first of many cigarettes. A voluptuous and dissolute punk princess in a tight red dress and matching lipstick, she coolly eyed the late-night Halloween crowd at Numbers.

“Isn’t it cool?” Love slurred. “We’ve got Gothic and tragedy in town on the same night.”

The Gothic reference was to Nine Inch Nails, the harsh industrial-pop band that performed Monday night at The Summit. The tragedy applies Love’s own band, Hole, which is touring in support of the album “Live Through This”.

The album was released this spring, just weeks before Love’s husband, Kurt Cobain of Nirvana, committed suicide. Love read from Cobain’s suicide note at a public wake in Seattle, then went into seclusion with her infant daughter.

Plans for a summer tour were shelved when Hole bassist Kristen Pfaff died from an overdose of heroin. The new bassist is Melissa Auf der Maur, who joins guitarist Eric Erlandson and drummer Patty Schemel.

Live Through This is one of the year’s most compelling rock albums, in part because so many of the songs seems to anticipate the tragic events that lay ahead. Love has been unfavorably compared to a punk-generation Yoko Ono, attempting to piggy-back a musical career on the success of a famous husband.

But Hole’s ability to combine the volatile emotion and churning energy of punk with contagious pop-rock melodies compares favorably to Nirvana, while Love’s leather-lunged wailing rivals that of male primal screamers from Johnny Rotten to Billy Corgan.

In concert, Hole is more about punk-theater than music, as Love threatens to lose control at any turn. While such erratic behavior by male rockers is tolerated and even romanticized, some may find it challenging or unnerving coming from a woman, the single mother of a small child.

It was nearly 1 a.m. before Hole took the stage, following opening sets by Veruca Salt and Maggie Estep. Numbers was festooned for the occasion with dozens of hanging skeletons, while a pastiche of clips from classic horror movies flickered on the club’s video screens.

While Love delivered the tunes from Live Through This and the band’s first album, “Pretty On the Inside”, with a desperate passion, the rest of the band played with studied detachment. Erlandson occasionally unloosed a writhing wall of feedback from his guitar, while Schemel pounded and kicked the tempos into high gear.

Between tunes, Love teased the crowd with references to Cobain, Nine Inch Nails’ Trent Reznor (with whom she has been romantically linked through underground gossip) and her own image as a floozy.

She offered to give one young man a kiss if he would buy a Hole T-shirt to “help put my daughter through college,” then made good on the offer when he rose out of the crowd wearing the shirt. She also threatened to walk offstage if anyone threw anything at the band.

Love capped the night by diving off the stage into the mosh-pit. After a few suspenseful moments, she reappeared with the top of her dress half torn off. She accused a young man of grabbing her breast.

“Why did you do that?” she inquired, shoving the mike into his face. The kid replied, “Uh, I guess it’s an infatuation.”

Love smirked, then muttered, “Well, you’re a better man than most.” She gathered up her dress, waved meekly to the crowd and wobbled offstage.

It was an anticlimactic ending to a predictably sad evening. Then again, in a classic tragedy, anything short of death is an anticlimax. Love is trying to Live Through This.