I have never had such mixed feelings over a concert in my life so this review might be a little all over the place. Please forgive it. I’m going to break it down into categories later. But let’s start with everything leading up to the show.
I am a crazy Courtney Love fan and have been a huge Hole fan since 1994 when I first heard them. I finally got to see them on their final tour in 1999 and it was one of the greatest experiences of my life (you can read my writeup of that show and get the entire show’s audio here). So clearly I was crazy excited about this show, even though I do not consider this current band to be Hole.
Anyway I arrived at the venue at 3pm. There was only one other guy there. By 5pm the line maybe had 10 people. This was a sold out show for a band that hadn’t toured in 11 years. And although it was supposed to be warm today the positioning of the venue by the water and by tall buildings creates a wind tunnel of freezing air. We all shivered till they opened the doors an hour early. Except not really. We were only allowed to go to their rooftop bar where we immediately had to line up again and a lot of early comers got stuck at the back of this line because it was so poorly managed. Luckily we’d all formed a bond in the frigid outdoors and brought the right people to the front of the line. A little before 8 they opened those doors and there was a crazy dangerous run down the stairs and through the labyrinth that is Terminal 5. Luckily me and my concert going companion and a lot of the early comers managed to get right up against the railing.
At 8:15 the first opening band The Love Love’s went on. They were a bunch of crappy hipsters led by a girl dressed like Andy Warhol. Next up was Little Fish. They’re a British band I’d never heard of before but they really rocked it. They were unbelievably great and the perfect openers for this show. The lead singer had tons of energy and moves that looked like she’d spent her life studying Joan Jett.
At 10:06, earlier than the scheduled 10:15 Hole took the stage. They started with Pretty On The Inside into Sympathy For The Devil into Skinny Little Bitch. The crowd was loving it and going nuts. Courtney seemed kinda shy during this little bit. She wasn’t “on” yet.
Now this is where I’m going to start splitting things up because I have some very mixed feelings.
After a few songs it was clear the queen was back. She was different though. The last decade has changed her. She wasn’t angry, didn’t yell at the crowd. Instead she was humble and happy. She often was smiling when the whole crowd was singing along to songs (which they did for every single song). She was loving it. She seemed to be having an incredible time on stage and really enjoying the love. At one point right before the last song she came over to where I was standing and just smiled and reached into the crowd as far as she could holding our hands, almost like she wanted to hug us all.
Also her voice. It’s still there and it’s incredible. She is still the same talent, just mellowed, although she still has those powerful wails in her, although she definitely had to pull the really raw part of Northern Star from her very depths. Her mic was noticeably low in the mix and overall she did seem unsure of herself. There’s only so many times one person can be beat down, especially like Love has been mostly unfairly, before they get a little gun shy.
Also just a quick aside. It’s very obvious this is a new Courtney just from her wardrobe alone. She wore a rather Stevie Nicks-esque black dress for the main set and a lovely white dress for the encore. No more angel wings and underwear for the mellowed Love.
This new “Hole” which I’ve repeatedly said I don’t acknowledge as Hole were basically what I suspected. Session musicians who didn’t even take the time to learn the songs properly. I know every single hit to every single drum part of every Hole song and the new drummer Stu did not even attempt to play any of the old stuff properly. Not a single one. But everyone was to focused on Courtney to notice. The rest of the band couldn’t hole a candle to the real Hole. Also Micko Larkin is fucking terrible. This becomes an even bigger slap in the face when you read the album notes and realize that the excellent Kellii from Veruca Salt apparently did most of the drumming on the album (although the drumming on the album isn’t great so I don’t know what happened there) and then there’s “Additional Drumming” by former Pearl Jam drummer Jack Irons. Either of these would have been excellent choices for the touring band.
THE SLAP IN THE FACE
Despite the absolutely magical time I enjoyed while Courtney was holding court, the set was a total of approximately 50 minutes. That is not a headlining set length and is inexcusable. Really not even an hour? You could see Courtney tiring during the final bit of Samantha. Which was the last song before the brief encore, bit I don’t think anyone would have held it against her to take a few minutes and relax and then play some more. 50 minutes for a ticket that cost about that is just ridiculous.
To be honest most of the highlights of the show were the new material. Courtney seemed much more into it and the band knew it better. Letter To God, Someone Else’s Bed, & Pacific Coast Highway were all high points for me. Samantha was a bit of a let down live, I don’t like the end piece (“People like you fuck people like me”) but always assumed it’d be awesome in concert but it really wasn’t.
So the ultimate question now comes: is it worth it? If you are a big Hole fan and never got to experience them, this is the closest you’ll come so go, but try to find reduced price tickets. If you’ve been waiting years to experience the magic that you can only witness from Courtney, one of the last true Rock Stars, then go. Otherwise I’d the rest of the tour is these ridiculous sets skip it and enjoy some old bootlegs and YouTube videos.
Some links to Ticketmaster and Hole’s North American tour are below. I’ll also try to find some videos and update this with them once people have had a chance to upload them. Anyway more pictures and the setlist below.
Hole plays NYC again tomorrow (well tonight now).
Setlist (not entirely sure this is in order)
- Pretty On The Inside
- Sympathy For The Devil (Rolling Stones Cover)
- Skinny Little Bitch
- Miss World
- Letter To God
- Pacific Coast Highway
- Someone Else’s Bed
- Celebrity Skin
- Play With Fire (Rolling Stones cover)
- Doll Parts
- Northern Star
Videos (these are not by me, just found on the web so thanks to everyone who filmed them)