Review: Raw

Civic Hall, Wolverhampton
by Dave Everley

FIRST THING you notice are the mini-Courtneys, the bottle blonde babydolls in eight-hole Docs playing at being their heroine. Second thing you notice are the Nirvana shirts. Or rather the lack of them. I looked hard and still only counted three. I might have managed four, but Hole came on and played some songs.

But do you really want that? The superfluous candyshit like the music they played? You want controversy, right! Something to talk about down at the pub. Go on. It’s alright to admit it. That’s why half of us are here tonight, worshipping in Queen Courtney’s inner sanctum.

OK then; edited highlights for the morbidly curious. Courtney staggers onstage looking like half a million bucks, a broken-down queen with battered tiara and a long, silver dress. And, yeah, she doesn’t look completely straight. Maybe she is. I don’t know her at all. She might just be this way.

Rolling Stone magazine gets it in the nec for voting her ‘Most Likely To Die’ in a recent poll. She seriously heckles some poor guy in the audience for wearing – OMYGODNO! – a Pearl Jam shirt. Best of all, though, she asks us to choose between Billy Corgan, Trent Reznor and Chris and Kim from Soundgarden for her next partner. She’s joking, of course, but not everybody laughs. There’s a lot more, naturally, but I got bored writing it down. Make it up yourself should you feel the urge.

It’s about halfway through the gig when you realise that Hole can never be a piss-your-pants great live band. That they’re good isn’t in doubt. Sometimes they even soar. Occasionally they sound like the most important band in the world. But when you’re not trying to catch a whiff of controversy from Courtney you’re still only trying to read too much into her lyrics. There’s so much extraneous crap floating around that it means, ultimately, it’s impossible to concentrate on Hole as a musical entity. The songs, as raspingly entertaining as they can be, run a poor third to publicity and past.

When things ignite, which is at least two times out of three, Hole make the competition look like overstuffed donkeys. ‘Miss World’ is sad and beautiful because, no matter what she might say, it’s impossible to shake the feeling that the song’s about Courtney herself. ‘Drown Soda’ is big, bloated, swamp noise, all evil slide guitar and a tribal drum tattoo. ‘Violet sounds like a red-raw tantrum. And when Courtney plays ‘Pennyroyal Tea’ after she’d sworn she wouldn’t unaccompanied and alone (in more than one sense), the air crackles with electricity.

It ends on a low. The band come back on-stage for an encore, Courtney exhibiting her new Goth look – lots of black rubber and a promise that she’ll dye her hair soon. Hole perform an old ’60s cover ‘He Hit Me (And It Felt Like A Kiss) and yeah, we all got that one. Then Hole played a song that was apparently co-written by Courtney with Kurt Cobain and Hole drummer Patty Schemel, which – if truth be told – ain’t that hot. Finally, as the brilliantly barbed ‘Rock Star’ fades, Courtney leaps into the crowd. She comes up five minutes later looking pissed off. She’s been felt up by some braindead little prick who obviously didn’t listen to the anti-rape tirade of ‘Asking For It’. She goes down again, punching and screaming. It looks faintly ridiculous, but then everybody knows that it’s completely justified. Everybody, that is, except for one person.

The voyeurs go home satisfied.