Review: Press-Enterprise

Love conquers all;
Sex, smack, suicide central to singer’s lyrics

November 10, 1994, by Cathy Maestri


All things aside, Hole’s sold-out show at SOMA on Tuesday was magnificent and raw; the band was tight and clean, singer Courtney Love’s sensuous vocals were ragged and passionate.

But with Hole, it’s impossible to put anything aside. Within the past year, Love has lost her husband – Nirvana singer Kurt Cobain – to suicide and her bassist, Kristen Pfaff, to a drug overdose. She battles it all on stage.

There was one dramatic outburst. It was too painful to be scripted, but with nerves so raw such episodes can’t be unusual.

“I really miss my husband,” Love said thickly several songs into the show. She cursed the audience repeatedly. “I really miss him. Shut up! ” she snapped. “It’s just hitting me, all right? “

There were cries of encouragement from the crowd, including shouts of “We love you, Courtney! “

“Don’t love me, just love him,” she pleaded before a burst of bitterness. “You made fun of him all the time,” she said. “All you did was say he sold out and wasn’t punk. “

Apparently someone in the crowd tried to lay blame. “I don’t care whose fault. Shut up, shut up about it! ” The band’s next song, “Asking For It,” yielded the album title, “Live Through This”: “If you live through me with this I swear that I will die for you. ” It’s just one of the lines that have taken on sadly deeper meaning since it was written. The refrain of “Doll Parts” serves as a chillingly ominous warning – “Someday you will ache like I ache. ” Are Love’s lyrics prescient, self-fulfilling or merely tragic coincidence?

Whichever the case may be, watching Love’s performance was like watching someone bleed, intensely uncomfortable as well as compelling.

Love sings of sex and smack and suicide, pain and degradation.

Tuesday, she seemed to triumph over all of it.

Tragedy notwithstanding, she’s quite a stage presence. Dressed in a dark, form-fitting dress with a white collar – the perfect thing for a little girl to wear to church – she smoked and drank and spat. She has the pale complexion of a dignified china doll exposed to years of abuse and neglect. She railed one minute and treated the crowd like preschoolers the next, trying to return someone’s shoe. She spewed love and hate, revealing that the line between the two is more blurred than anyone cares to admit.

Musically, Hole’s set was refreshingly diverse, from an almost pseudo-country ballad to a discordant lullaby, a warm version of “Miss World” and the sheer, thrashing rage of “Jennifer’s Body” and “Gutless. “

For the encore, Love had stripped down to her slip and called attention to her belly. “How pregnant am I? ” she asked teasingly.

“Whose baby is it? I’ll never tell. ” Hole ended the show with “Rock Star” as Love flung herself into the crowd; she emerged minus one strap and, as she unhappily pointed out, her underwear.