Review: SonicNet

Hole Return to Stage in Surprise UK Gig
October 15, 1998, by Marti Zimlin

Courtney Love and band open for mope-rockers the Cure at annual Blind Date concert in London.

More than 500 people crowded into the Kentish Town Forum in London on Sunday. They knew why, but not what for.

About 20 minutes before showtime, as Miller beer commercials flashed on giant video screens, and tracks by past performers for the event wafted from the sound system, wild rumors were circulating about who the opening act might be. The event was the Miller Genuine Draft Blind Date concert — a promotional event in which the beer company sends contest-winners to see a special mystery performance in a major city.

Then, at 9 p.m., the red velvet curtains rose, and squeals of delight accompanied the appearance of singer Courtney Love and her post-grunge pop act, Hole — the first in a surprise double-bill also featuring legendary mope-rockers the Cure.

“How is everybody tonight?” Love growled huskily into the microphone, at the onset of her band’s first full concert in four years. “We haven’t played for our fans for a long time!”

You wouldn’t have known it from her stage presence. From the anthemic notes that opened the hit single “Celebrity Skin”, to such other Hole favorites as “Violet,” “Beautiful Son” and the new single, “Malibu”, Love showed that even though she’s taken time out for a Versace ad-campaign and recent film roles, she’s still a rock performer.

Wearing tight black pants and a sheer top, Love prowled the stage, grinding her pelvis into her guitar and dancing around the microphone — all in true rock-diva fashion. Young English techno-kids in high-tech Nikes raved while American goths sang along and pogoed to such past Hole tunes as “Miss World” and “Doll Parts.”

Bush singer Gavin Rossdale and supermodel Kate Moss were seen bobbing their heads in appreciation.

The hour-long set included a cover of the Bob Dylan folk-rock classic “It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue” and concluded with an acoustic version of “Northern Star,” off the Celebrity Skin album, with Hole member Eric Erlandson accompanying Love on acoustic guitar.

But Polly (who didn’t give her last name), 25, from South London, wasn’t particularly impressed.

“I mean, they just aren’t big over here, and I saw one of them being escorted around the guest-area by security. It’s a guest area; we just don’t act like that here in England. You wouldn’t see [Oasis leader] Liam Gallagher being escorted by security,” she exclaimed as she took a sip from her beer. “I was hoping it would be PJ Harvey. Hole are OK, I guess.”

Others were grateful to have had the chance to catch Hole before they head out on a full tour.

“I f—ing loved it,” said Crispin Matthews, 27, from Manchester. “It was alright, yeah. Courtney, she’s my girl, and Hole haven’t played here since Reading a few years ago. I thought the set was great, and I can’t wait until she tours the U.K.”

The identity of the next band was — like the first — anyone’s guess. When asked who he thought it might be, Matthews replied, “The Prodigy and Oasis. As long as it wasn’t Depeche Mode, I didn’t care. I was kinda hoping for Ash, though, I must admit.”

At 10:30 p.m. the Cure took to the stage and kicked off with their song “Fascination Street.”

The band — currently on a short hiatus from recording their follow-up to 1997’s Wild Mood Swings — performed for more than an hour and a half. Their set included “Just Like Heaven,” “10:15 Saturday Night” and “Why Can’t I Be You” and ended with an earth-shattering rendition of their classic, “Killing an Arab,” from their first album, Boys Don’t Cry.

Afterward, Roger O’Donnell, keyboardist for the Cure, said he thought the show was a success and a lot of fun, even if they didn’t have time to hang out with Hole.

“The vibe just wasn’t there,” O’Donnell said. “I didn’t even get a chance to check out their set. There was just so much going on.”