Review: The New York Times

Courtney Love Shows Her Control by Letting Loose
May 24, 1999, by Ann Powers

Courtney Love was in control at Hole’s Roseland show Tuesday night, and she clearly felt excellent about it. ”Let them up here if they’re not insane!” she instructed the guards helping her fill the stage with young fans as Hole played its smartly constructed set. Ms. Love hoisted admirers up herself when not riding the shoulders of a bouncer to shake their hands or orchestrating the dishevelment of her slippery evening dress. She showed the blend of raucous spontaneity and intense calculation that makes her a remarkable rock star.

When Hole abruptly left this year’s much-touted tour with Marilyn Manson, it seemed that Ms. Love might be wondering how rock fit into her career. Yet those daunting dates with Manson offered the benefit of trial by fire, and now Hole has refocused on its strengths.

Instead of trying to replicate the relatively smooth sound of ”Celebrity Skin,” the quartet has found the raw power in its songs. The guitarist Eric Erlandson, the bassist Melissa Auf der Mar and the tour drummer Samantha Maloney meshed with this direct approach, displaying muscle instead of struggling to sound pretty. Rather than trying to get her voice to behave, Ms. Love wisely let feeling lead her, remembering that great rock singers often dare to miss the notes.

The set matched new songs with the older ones, like ”Violet,” which made Hole a paradigm of indelicate artistry. The juxtaposition indicated that refinement hasn’t dampened Hole’s fury. Sloppy covers of Lynyrd Skynyrd’s ”One More Time” and the Temptations’ ”Get Ready” were just for fun, the sign of a band relaxing.

What remains fascinating about Hole, though, is the wrestling match between Ms. Love’s brain and her gut desire. She dragged all those people on stage because she believes in rock’s power to touch everyone with a little stardust. Then she posed like the madly narcissistic Gloria Swanson in ”Sunset Boulevard” and spat out lyrics about selling out. She knows that popular culture is a big lie, but she lives by it. As long as she walks that tightrope, she will merit the platform she’s built.

The tour openers, the quartet Imperial Teen, showed a different approach to growing up with one’s rock dreams intact. These men and women, most of whom are punk veterans, showed an irresistible delight in shaping their own tangy version of pop. Imperial Teen plays with rock’s details: the way male and female voices mesh, or love songs can turn angry, or guitars collide with drums. This band’s modesty leaves room for grace.