Live Review: Hole, Manchester Academy

Posted on 9 May 2010
By Amy Roberts and Sakura
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‘This is either the best or the worst gig you’ve ever seen’, Courtney Love jokes wryly, self-deprecation worn proudly on her sleeve.

An amp has just blown right before a rendition of what Courtney calls ‘the rape song’ (Asking For It), and prior to this she apologizes for the fact that her voice is going – she gave it ‘to the Scots’ apparently, but still nearly manages to blow the roof off the joint with what is the most guttural, vendetta laden scream that may have ever graced Manchester Academy.

Welcome to the Courtney show. An inescapably charming performance of malfunction and dysfunction which sees the chief lady of celebra-grunge forgetting the lyrics to her own songs and introducing her own bass player as ‘a great f*uck’.

The lyrically bombastic How Dirty Girls Get Clean, for instance, storms the stage following a cryptic introductory anecdote concerning how the song made Limp Bizkit fans cry – a reference we can only imagine is a vengeful shout out to one-time ex Fred Durst (yuck).

In fact, she loves the vengeful shout outs. Right before launching into a blazing version of Violet, she makes a quip about how the song was written about Billy Corgan – ‘We used to write songs about each other. He wrote all of his best love songs about me’, she chimes proudly.

But it’s in her performances of classic Hole material in which Courtney really shines. Doll Parts, Malibu, Celebrity Skin and b-side rarities Best Sunday Dress and Gold Dust Woman are belted raucously out with the refreshingly female heavy audience screaming every word back to her with victory and unconditional love.

Charisma and crowd control aside, Courtney’s talents are really showcased during some exceptional cover songs – two in particular, The Rolling Stones’ Play With Fire, which bellows out moody and atmospherically dense – and Big Star heart-strainer Thirteen (also covered by Elliott Smith), in which she looks vulnerable and stripped down for the first time during the show. Courtney – the rock star, disappears and Courtney – the person, takes the stage.

She somehow manages to make the song her own, and it’s an exceptional encore piece that she bows out and skips away from emotionally, like a little girl terrified of acknowledging the audience she’s made her first recital to.

Messy and technically flawed – yes. She may have even been singing from an auto cue at certain points, and there were suspicions that her guitar wasn’t actually on for every song she played it for, but the whole thing is so endearing, so genuine, so thanklessly raw that it works.

It’s been a long time coming, but it finally feels like Courtney Love has made her return. Here’s hoping she stays a little longer this time.