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- Posted on Apr 29th 2010 10:00AM by Kenneth Partridge
"We're not an oldies band," Love said, having just led the latest incarnation of the again, off-again Hole through a version of the 1994 single 'Miss World.' As three floors of fans cheered her on, she insisted she would get the same warm response were she to skip the hits and focus solely on new material.
"You'd still love me," Love said. "And I need to know that."
Whether she believed this theory, it's one she wasn't about to test. The very next song was another '90s hit, 'Violet,' the one in which she sings "Go on, take everything" like someone resigned to being used up and cast aside.
Wednesday's show, the second of two consecutive sold-out New York appearances, was rife with such contradictions. Mixing Hole classics with covers -- including two Rolling Stones tunes -- and a handful of songs from Hole's just-released album, 'Nobody's Daughter,' Love was at turns self-aggrandizing and self-effacing, passionate and nonchalant.
On opener 'Pretty on the Inside,' she sang in a slurred, nasally Bob Dylan style. She used the same voice as the band segued into the Stones' 'Sympathy for the Devil,' an opportunity for Love to cast herself as a favorite character, the misunderstood sinner-saint. Onstage, as in real life, she's incredibly self-aware: She courts controversy and calamity and -- at least on some level -- revels in the attention.
Love sharpened her attack on 'Skinny Little Bitch,' Hole's current single, biting into her words and strumming her Rickenbacker guitar with increased ferocity. The tune was the best received of her new ones. Mostly, fans wanted to scream along with the old stuff. During 'Violet,' in particular, 20 and 30-something women surged toward the stage, reliving transformative moments from their '90s youths.
For these Love diehards, it didn't matter that she sang out of tune or struggled to stretch the performance past the one-hour mark. Just seeing her, resplendent in a silky black slip dress, was enough. The same was true for the curious -- people who showed up mainly to see if Love could still pull it off. They snapped camera-phone pictures as Hole pushed capably through 'Celebrity Skin,' 'Malibu' and closer 'Samantha.'
"We'll be back, if you want us," Love said as the band filed offstage. She returned with a stripped-down version of the menacing Stones cut 'Play With Fire,' followed by 'Doll Parts,' Hole's 1994 breakout single, which sparked another round of nostalgic moshing.
After noting the brevity of the set due to guitarist Micko Larkin's cramped hand, Love joined the apparently ailing sideman for an acoustic rendition of the Big Star gem 'Thirteen.' It's a song about innocence and salvation through rock 'n' roll, and Love's warbled, caterwauling vocals took on a kind of poignancy. She was either letting down her guard or trying hard to make people think she was.
She followed with another acoustic number, 'Northern Star,' an elegy, perhaps, to late husband Kurt Cobain. In the final bars, Love raised her voice and strangled each note. Calculated or not, it was a moment of high drama from one of rock's all-time drama queens. And that's a good thing.