Hole at First Avenue, 07/16/10

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Photos by Nick Vlcek
Hole
July 16, 2010
First Avenue


There were a lot of people speculating as to how Hole's show at First Avenue was going to go down on Friday night, from the die-hard fans convinced Courtney Love was going to deliver, to the wide-eyed spectators just hoping to witness a trainwreck.

Ultimately, the show fell far closer to the former scenario than the latter, but no one really could've expected that we would all be openly discussing our credit scores with Ms. Love halfway through the show (hers is 528, in case you were wondering). Which is a perfect example of the appeal that she has had within the music industry over the years -- always keeping her audience guessing while managing to keep them entertained.

She did plenty of both during her 90-minute, 20-song set, which technically started early Saturday morning at 12:45, an hour later than her scheduled start time. But everyone waited around, simply because they wanted to see what Courtney would do, say, and play. And while it was far from a perfect performance, Love (who looks the best she has in 15 years) continually kept things interesting with her bawdy tales of her time spent in Minneapolis (from '87-'89) and her impressive back catalog of hits.

After the beginning of "Let's Go Crazy" died down ("Dearly beloved..."), Love finally strolled on stage, brazenly smoking a cigarette and announcing "I'm late. Aren't you going to say welcome back? Welcome home?" The crowd screamed their welcome right back at her, perhaps happy that she eventually showed up at all. Love proclaimed that "the chords of this first song were written six blocks away" before tearing into a small snippet of "Pretty On the Inside," which quickly gave way to a spirited cover of "Sympathy For the Devil." She's touring with four other musicians (none of which are original members of Hole), whom she didn't name during the show (other than later calling out the guitarist Micko Larkin for screwing up their cover of the Replacements "Unsatisfied"), making it clear, for anyone that might not have been aware coming in, that this show was always going to be about her and only her.

With a personality as large as Love's, there really isn't room left for anybody else, anyway, and she did a wonderful job keeping the crowd captivated by either her music or her riotous non sequiturs all night.

courtney-love-and-hole-spout-off-at-first-avenue.5082114.87.jpg
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courtney-love-and-hole-spout-off-at-first-avenue.5082113.87.jpg
Photos by Nick Vlcek
"Skinny Little Bitch" really jump-started the set, after which Love explained that while she lived in Minneapolis she took on an alter ego named 'Cricket Nordstrom,' and before anyone could really process the hilarity of that statement, she moved on to a killer version of "Miss World." "Violet" was especially volatile on this evening, causing Courtney to change out of her six-inch Fendi heels, which she "only wears for the photographers," and into flats, which she didn't leave on for very long.

After skipping a song on the setlist in favor of "the beachy one" ("Pacific Coast Highway"), Courtney asked the audience "who is here that I've had sex with?" And when everyone in the audience roared, she said "wait, that's not true, there's only about 10 of you." Her entire set was an edgy balance between that type of provocative storytelling, local references (CC Club, Amphetamine Reptile Records, and the bathroom at First Avenue where Love almost lost her virginity), and a set filled with hits, with the endless banter only serving to augment the songs as opposed to distracting from them.

The newer material didn't have the same bite and vehemence of her earlier work, though, and neither did the covers sprinkled throughout the set: a tepid version of Leonard Cohen's "Take This Longing," a lounge-act version of Nine Inch Nails "Closer" tagged onto the end of "Someone Else's Bed," and the aforementioned "Unsatisfied," which while being substandard, was still better than the others.

Love and the band did much better when they stuck with her older songs, with "Asking For It," "Plump" and "Celebrity Skin" all resonating with an energy and urgency that the other songs lacked. And, to make up for the shoddy Replacements cover, Love delivered stellar renditions of "Doll Parts" and "Malibu" that closed out the main set on a high. Love left the stage saying "I don't want to leave, it's our last night on tour. But we've got a curfew." Which made it a bit strange that she kept us waiting a bit longer than usual for the encore (Courtney had to change into an Alexander McQueen dress, naturally).

So, with her new frock on, Love and the band treated us to a three-song encore that, instead of ending the night explosively, just reminded the audience that it was well past two in the morning. After a decent version of "Samantha" started things out, Love took a poll on which song we wanted to hear next, "Awful" or "Boys On The Radio." "Awful" won out, but the version lacked spirit, and the night closed rather meekly with an acoustic rendition of "Never Go Hungry."

Considering the debacles and disasters that have occurred on Hole's current U.S. tour, this show was remarkably entertaining and can only be seen as a triumph for Courtney Love, who returned to her old stomping grounds and showed that she still has plenty of passion and punch left within her, and the shocking stories to match.

Critic's Bias: I went in hoping for a spectacle, and was pleasantly surprised by the cohesive, enjoyable set.
The Crowd: A balance between aging Riot Grrl's and casual onlookers just hoping to witness a train wreck.
Overheard In The Crowd: Yeah, as if anything overheard in the crowd would be remotely as interesting as what Courtney was saying onstage.
Random Notebook Dump: Based on the pictures posted on her blog, Courtney got her hair done at Tres Jolie Salon in Uptown before the show.
For more photos: See our complete slideshow by Nick Vlcek.

Setlist:

Pretty On The Inside/Sympathy For The Devil (Rolling Stones)
Skinny Little Bitch
Miss World
Violet
Pacific Coast Highway
Reasons To Be Beautiful
Letter To God
Asking For It
Take This Longing (Leonard Cohen)
Plump
Someone Else's Bed/Closer (Nine Inch Nails)
Celebrity Skin
Unsatisfied (Replacements)
Doll Parts
Malibu

Encore:
Samantha
Awful
Never Go Hungry
 
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