Last Night: Hole at the House of Blues

House of Blues
July 7, 2010

Better Than: The train wreck we anticipated. Way better, actually.

The fans gathered at the House of Blues last night had every reason to expect an on-stage debacle from Courtney Love and the four-piece backing band of players she now calls Hole.

They didn't get one, though. Rather, they saw an almost 46-year-old rocker, who, OK, may be a bit off her rocker, but who is as magnetic a live entertainer now as she ever has been.

Which, surely, is a good thing--especially considering that Love, though still a great entertainer, isn't that great of a musician. In fact, her engaging on-stage persona was enough to keep the crowd from looking at any of Love's faceless Hole bandmates.

But not doing looking at those other performers would mean missing out on the biggest revelation of the night.

Meaning? Well, how heavily Love leaned on them--and how much weight they carried throughout the night. Really: Sonically, there were no complaints to be had. Every note the band played was spot on. There were no flaws, no flubs, no errors.

Nor was there ever a chance that there would be. Hole was born as a four-piece, and on the road this time around, it toured as a five-some. Here's why: Love's guitar was about as low in the mix as it could get while still being audible; her four bandmates essentially provided the entire sonic background for the night.

But let's not go without giving Love her due. Her performance on this night was far better than could have been predicted. Not only was the frontwoman lucid, but she was also in her element, knowingly amongst fans and appreciative of their support.

Well, for the most part: At one point, early in the set, Love offered to open much of her set with all of her biggest hits--"Miss World," "Violet," "Doll Parts," "Celebrity Skin" and "Malibu"--and to skip all of her new material. Was that what the crowd wanted? Of course--and they applauded it.

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"No!" Courtney pleaded in response. "You're supposed to say no to that!"

She acted as if they had, though. Which, really, was to be expected. Still, it was a front-loaded affair, with the band performing "Miss World," "Violet," and "Celebrity Skin" all within the first 40 or so minutes of the set, with those songs surrounded by covers of the Rolling Stones' "Sympathy for the Devil," and Nine Inch Nails' "Closer."

It made for a thunderous start to the night--and an opening that showcased that Love's voice still has one heck of a wail (if one that was also always a bit grating). But it also meant that the rest of the night focused largely on material from the new album, Nobody's Daughter. And considering that Hole offered up a 80-minute set last night and an additional 25-minute encore, well, that's a lot wasted time.

But overall, the night was hardly a waste: It was far more entertaining an affair than anticipated. And as for Love? Well, she may still be crazy. But a little crazy can be pretty fun sometimes.

Critic's Notebook
Personal Bias:
I've never been a huge Hole fan. Don't own a single record, even. But, c'mon, the band's five big songs (see above)? They're all pretty killer. Courtney knows it. I know it. You know it. Against all odds, Hole has some really good songs, folks. Which made the small-ish crowd relatively surprising. Couldn't have been more than 500 people there, max.

By The Way: Our own Cory Graves got a shout-out on-stage for his time spent on the phone with Love yesterday. Sure, she said he worked for the Dallas Tribune (which doesn't exist) and not the Observer. But, whatever. You can't argue with this gold from Love: "Oh, man, I just realized something. I forgot to put this guy Cory from the Dallas Tribune on the list tonight. He interviewed me over the phone today. We talked for, like, five hours. He was my fucking shrink."

Random Note: Love opened the night by telling the crowd that "Dallas has good pot." Which explains so, so much.

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