Review: The Plain Dealer

Unruly Fans Put an End to Love in Cleveland
December 26, 1994, by J. Caleb Mozzocco

It was a cool Cleveland evening when I stepped out of the back seat of my friend’s car, checking my back pocket for the 64th time. Yep, my ticket was still there.

Sure, I was a little neurotic, but this was my first concert ever, and I looked forward to seeing Courtney Love and her band Hole at the Agora Theater Dec. 2. If the group’s latest album, the critically acclaimed “Live Through This,” was any indication of how it would sound live, the show promised to be a borderline mystical experience.

From the outside, the Agora resembled a condemned department store, but inside the intimate venue looked exactly as I pictured the Theatre des Vampires in the Anne Rice novels. My friends and I made our way to the pit to await the arrival of media magnet Love and her band (including guitarist Eric Erlandson, drummer Patty Schemel and new bassist Melissa Auf Der Maur).

The band was more than an hour late, but when Love marched onto the stage, propped her leg on an amp and tore into “Plump,” the wait was well worth it.

The lights went out, and the shoulder-to-shoulder, toe-to-toe crowd in the pit exploded, reflecting the music’s fierce energy. It was as if each person in the sold-out crowd was a note in the song, and the mad pushing and shoving mirrored the nature of Hole’s post-punk sound.

Hole roared through a mix of material from “Live Through This” and its debut “Pretty on the Inside” during the 90-minute set. Green, red and purple lights flashed on the stage, seeming to spit forth streams of colored smoke like lethargic dragons.

Virtual towers of speakers amplified and rained down the music in a machine-gun hail. Love’s lilting lyrics hummed in my belly and ran up and down over my ribs like an electric ghost.

During her last trip to Cleveland, Love was staggering drunk, and her performance and behavior – exposing her breasts to audience catcalls – reflected it. But this time she was completely in control. She responded to calls to “take it off” by saying, “I did that last time I was here, how boring.”

The highlight – as well as the unfortunate part – of the show came at the end of the three-song encore. Love, with the help of a security guard, pulled a half-dozen girls onto the stage. Then, taking two of the girls by the hands, she dove into the crowd.

What happened next at the show brilliantly illustrates why artists can become frustrated with their audience, and why you often hear rock stars in interviews complaining about the loathsome pressures of being a rock star.

When Love leapt into the crowd, did they support her, as they had each other all night? No, they let her drop, tore off her clothes and mobbed her. Security guards pushed off the crowd until Love could cover herself with someone’s sweat shirt and climb back on stage.

After challenging whoever tore off her panties to confront her on stage, she announced she would never play here again, and stormed off stage. It’s a shame that despite how hard she tried to involve the audience, a minority still exploited and took advantage of her.

Still, Hole’s performance stood as brilliant testimony to its talent. And my friend Scott managed to catch a headless baby doll.