Review: The Virginian Pilot

Love, Hole Perform With Vitriolic Verve at Sold-Out Abyss
October 2, 1994

Courtney Love took her first few seconds onstage Friday night at the Abyss to address the latest gossip.

The lead singer and rhythm guitarist of Hole denied in colorful language reports that she had recently received breast implants. After further, largely unintelligible remarks, Love aborted her tirade and abruptly struck up the riff of “Plump,” one of the most audaciously striking songs on the group’s current “Live Through This” album.That’s how it went throughout Hole’s hour-plus set, which occasioned the Virginia Beach club’s first sell-out. The crowd of more than 1,000 witnessed probably the closest thing to the Sex Pistols’ legendary psychodramas they’ll ever see, as Love harangued them between nearly every number, drinking and chain-smoking, and tossing dolls, stuffed animals and cigarettes into the mass.

Hole is now on the tour that ran into stumbling blocks with the suicide of Love’s husband, Kurt Cobain, and the overdose death of its bassist, Kristen Pfaff. Love has been cutting a swath through the Internet and other highly visible outposts for months, but is now out to cement Hole’s reputation as one of the most striking bands in America.

The quartet, fortified with new bassist Melissa Auf Der Maur, often surpassed in rueful vitriol the recorded versions of its songs, most drawn from “Live.” Love faced down the images of decay and fear in these lyrics written before Cobain’s death, yowling and sometimes nearly crying them out. She punched her guitar while delivering the lines “I’m your lover, I’m your friend / Obscurity hits me again / With a bullet, number one / Kill the family, save the son” from “Jennifer’s Body.”

It was one of the few seemingly direct references to Cobain in the show; the other came near the end, when Love sneeringly pointed toward a radio station’s promotional banner and recited a litany of alternative-rock superstar names: “Kurt, Trent, Courtney . . . . ” She also mocked past trends with a brief, feedback-spattered rendition of “Hungry Like the Wolf,” and another current one by proclaiming solidarity with female performers “except Tori Amos and Liz Phair.”

Both mocking and celebrating the tension between her celebrity and her musical commitment, Love made perhaps her most cogent statement about how far she’s come – and how far she hasn’t – with a version of “Rock Star” that began a well-earned encore. Tempting dissonance, then giving in willfully, the brutal (and brutally funny) song was topped only by the final tune.

“She Walks on Me,” a rant against “anorexic magazines,” climaxed with Love leaping into the mosh pit, breaking the gender line she had earlier attacked verbally. After crowd-surfing for a few moments, she grasped the strap of the guitar a crew member was trying to wrest away from her, refusing to let go of her instrument, her lifeline.