Review: The Seattle Times

Luminous Love lights up the Deck the Hall Ball
by Tom Scanlon

Seattle Courtney blew Malibu Courtney’s doors off.

The lead singer of Hole has moved to Los Angeles and reinvented herself as a movie actress. Courtney Love also fiddled with the sound of her formerly punk-grunge band, which has a new pop-rock album called “Celebrity Skin.”

As was reinforced during Hole’s electrifying set Wednesday night, only “Malibu” and the title track from the new album can hold a candle to the punk-grunge “Live Through This” – one of the best rock albums of the ’90s.

The bad girl of rock celebrated her return to Seattle by flashing some celebrity skin, answering pleas from the crowd to show them her breasts. (Which, to begin with, were barely covered by a revealing top.) And, knowing that the radio station was broadcasting the show live, Love enticed the crowd to scream obscenities.

Earlier in the night, Garbage lead singer Shirley Manson showed considerable charisma. She prowled the stage like a rapper as she sang “Stupid Girl,” “Only Happy When It Rains,” “Special” and “I Think I’m Paranoid,” all getting great response from the crowd.

But the second Love swaggered onstage, in tight leather pants cut Marilyn Monroe style, it was clear that Manson was just warming up the crowd for the star of the night.

After “Awful,” one of the unexceptional songs from “Celebrity Skin,” Love lit a cigarette, tossed her lighter into the crowd and sang “Miss World” from “Live Through This.”

Love next sang the fine “Malibu” and lesser “Reasons To Be Beautiful” and “Dying” from the new album, before returning to Hole’s previous album. On “Doll Parts,” the singer exploded into a chilling scream for the line “SOME DAY YOU WILL ACHE LIKE I ACHE.”

That was followed by the ballad “Northern Star,” with Love singing only to Eric Erlandson’s acoustic guitar. This was hardly playing to Love’s strengths, as her voice sounded strained.

Erlandson, bassist Melissa Auf Der Maur and drummer Patty Schemel then ripped through a devastating version of “Violet,” returning to the 1994 album. Then came another new song, the set-closing “Boys on the Radio” – decidedly anticlimactic.

The real victim of post-climax syndrome was poor Elliott Smith.

Santa Claus himself would have a hard time following Courtney Love in Seattle. So it was that after Love wished “Merry Christmas, Seattle” and left the stage, blowing kisses as she went, much of the crowd headed for the exits.

Those who left early missed Smith, the extraordinary singer-songwriter who hit it big with his contributions to the “Good Will Hunting” soundtrack. Playing acoustic guitar and looking like Neil Young’s sleepy cousin, Smith sang “Waltz No. 2” and other songs from his “XO” album.

The intimate Smith seemed out of place in an arena concert. The place to see him would have been a Portland coffeehouse, but those days are long gone.

The excellent collection of music started with Cake, followed by the funky Soul Coughing, Garbage and an acoustic set by growly Mark Lanegan. The show ended with swingers Cherry Poppin’ Daddies, singing “Zoot Suit Riot.”