Review: Live Daily

Hole Sends Mixed Messages in New York
May 27, 1999, by Carlene Bauer

At a 1995 Washington D.C. Hole show, an audience member enduring a long wait for the band to come onstage quipped to a friend “Do you think she’s dead?” Four years later and Courtney Love, now pretty on the outside and (presumably) vice-free, doesn’t leave her public wondering if she’ll make it to the stage in one piece. Now Love provides drama drenched in glitter, and the audience at Hole’s sold out May 18 show at New York City’s Roseland Ballroom ate it up.

From the set design to Love’s de-clawed stage patter, the show seemed to be some kind of rebirth announcement. She and her band were going to walk on sunshine, and if you didn’t like the butterfly wings strapped on her back, tough. She was taking the advice given to girls betrayed by rock and roll in the Celebrity Skin song Awful: “They bought it all, just build a new one/ Make it beautiful.”

Love, bassist Melissa Auf der Mar (also in wings), guitarist Eric Erlandson and drummer Samantha Maloney recreated the fury and sweep of Live Through This and Celebrity Skin in front of red velvet curtains that framed a gauzy landscape of columns and fountains. To swing as they did between the stylistic extremes of opener Violet and a cover of the Temptations’ Get Ready without losing their footing was no small accomplishment.

Pitted against each other, however, the Live Through This songs emerged as a more powerful live experience than the material from Celebrity Skin. Listening to hooks like “She walks over me” claw their way out of chaos was more compelling than hearing Love flex her power pop muscle, which seemed to sag on Northern Star and Boys on the Radio. The music inspired a sizable mosh pit, but the songs often ended up being beside the point as Love let her guitar swing from her like an accessory or abandoned it altogether to strike Martha Graham-like poses.

The point was, of course, Love as rock goddess prom queen, come to earth in a long sparkling pink dress so that she might bring a little glam to her subjects– whom she alternately abused and embraced.

During one number, the crowd was showered with glitter and washed in colored light, invited into their very own MTV moment. And Love made it a point to fill the whole stage with teenagers, yanking them out of the audience and then berating the stagehands when they brought her boys.

“Just the girls!” she commanded. “Who cares if they’re up here? As long as they’re not insane.” (At one point Love peered down in to the crowd and harassed some kid for being a jock trying to play at being “disenfranchised youth.”)

Industry types weren’t safe either. “I see you all in the back there,” Love said. “You’re all so jaded because you’re on the guest list.”

By the end of the evening, she had a chorus of fans backing her up–mostly clean-scrubbed girls in tank tops sitting Indian style and lip-synching their hearts out. But they seemed like props for her amusement. Love wasn’t the one who stopped for a cluster of girl fans before she left the stage-that was Auf der Mar.

Although Love’s abandonment of grrrlhood in the Age of Lilith is a bit disappointing, the sight of her moving nearly effortlessly from a roar to a coo and back again was impressive. The Roseland show proved that she’s keeping rock alive–as a grownup, and without having to resort to horror show theatrics. What other Rolling Stone cover girl could make some middle-aged guy from the depths of New York’s outer boroughs pump his fist while she screamed “Someday you will ache like I ache”?