Review: Kansas City Star

Hole performs glitzy, old-fashioned rock ‘n’ roll
May 1999, by Derek Donovan

Courtney Love is a big star – a very big star – and don’t you forget it.

Love, the bigger-than-life lead singer of the band Hole, is perhaps the only real rock star to have emerged from the mid-’90s grunge scene. Unlike her rapidly disappearing contemporaries in that genre, Love embraces and revels in her own fame.

Several times in her band’s hourlong concert Wednesday night at Memorial Hall, she reminded the audience that she was asked to be the female star of the smash film “The Matrix” but that she passed on it because she did not consider the role worthy of her time.

Love seemed bewildered at the sparse crowd before her at Memorial Hall, mentioning (again, several times) that all of her other shows in the tour have been sold out. She reached the conclusion that Kansas audiences must find her too scary.

“What kind of music do you guys like? Hootie?” she asked.

Professional disappointments aside, Love unabashedly set out to put on a real, old-fashioned rock ‘n’ roll show. Painted backdrops, whiz-bang lighting effects and even confetti cannons punctuated the band’s set.

Love has created a stage persona as a strange hybrid of Stevie Nicks and Marilyn Manson: part mystical waif, part acid-tongued (and extremely self-conscious) bad girl. While watching the new, glitzy Hole perform, the mangy Seattle scene of Nirvana and Pearl Jam seemed like nothing but a distant memory.

Hole’s sound in recordings has progressed dramatically from the raw, punkish rock of its debut album. The current album, “Celebrity Skin,” adopts a radio-friendly, California-pop sheen, but those same songs took on a rough immediacy in concert, hearkening back to the band’s roots. Even the bland single “Malibu” became an intense rocker live.

Hole’s sound was bright, right and polished, quite unlike the garbled mess of most grunge shows past. Standout numbers included “Violet,” “Celebrity Skin,” and “Reasons to be Beautiful,” perhaps the band’s most mature and thrilling song to date.

Drummer Samantha Maloney (replacing longtime Hole member Patty Schemel) was the most energetic and entertaining presence on stage, easily outshining catatonic guitarist Eric Erlandson, and many times even upstaging Love for visual interest.

Opening act Imperial Teen gave a passable performance of its soft-pop songs, but its slacker attitude and look seem a bit out of touch in 1999.