wears the trousers magazine

hole: live at shepherds bush empire, london 17/02

Hole + Foxy Shazam + Little Fish
Shepherds Bush Empire, London ••••
February 17, 2010

So, as everyone no doubt knows by now, it wasn’t actually Hole that took to the stage of the Shepherds Bush Empire last night. Eric, Patty and Melissa were glaringly absent, but the walking, Twittering legend that is Courtney Love had returned to the UK and everyone from seasoned Babydolls to Beautiful Sons and Slut Kiss Girls had been ticking off their countdown calendars with bright pink hearts every day since purchasing the quick-to-sell-out tickets.

Finally the day had come, but the baroque classics piping through the airy heights of the Empire weren’t the only thing at odds with the beating hearts and giddy excitement of the full capacity crowd; the support acts also provided a confusing shade to proceedings. Little Fish were a good choice; their strong, classic indie rock augmented by Love’s producer Linda Perry on keyboards as frontwoman and guitarist Juju wheeled out some mean yells and raspy, blues-rock howls. Main support Foxy Shazam, however, were an entirely different proposition. Playing like a wild-haired, motley-attired circus crew that had found their way into the school music room, the Ohio six-piece bounced around like cock-rock gypsies who doubled up as drunken gymnasts.

Moustachioed frontman Eric Nally was almost a doppelgänger for comedian Noel Fielding (who observed from the balcony alongside Love’s friend and former part-time bandmate Harry) and strutted with all the showmanship of Mick Jagger while singing paeans to pussy and spitting at hecklers. The crowd, who were perhaps expecting another strong, female lead in keeping with the headliner, were quick to tire of the band’s theatrics. Though sweaty, shambolic and fun, they seemed simply irrelevant to the night’s undoubtedly girl-centric atmosphere.

The constant dramatics of Love’s hot-mess lifestyle are infamous, but despite the well-established hell raising the queen of grunge was both punctual to the stage and coherent throughout, despite over-strummed, bleeding fingers and perhaps a touch of tiredness. Still a little too thin for comfort, Love shone with a glitter encrusted flow of mermaid blonde tresses and rose tinted eyeshadow, swapping between Fenders and Rickenbackers throughout a set that consisted of classic Live Through This era hits, a cover of the Rolling Stones’ ‘Sympathy For The Devil’ and an airing of more recent numbers from the long awaited, somewhat strung out Nobody’s Daughter (the latest release date being mooted is April 26).

The newer material sounded solidified and fleshed out compared with the demos that leaked some while back, and all-time favourites ‘Violet’, ‘Miss World’ and ‘Celebrity Skin’ had the crowd moshing with nostalgic glee. The irresistible Californian pop of ‘Malibu’ sounded as bliss-out perfect as it first did a dozen years ago. But even if the level of drama and controversy surrounding Love has persisted, the times have inevitably changed and Love has clearly moved on from the crush-inducing, grunge classics of her golden era. Nevertheless, the power of songs like ‘Doll Parts’, set opener ‘Pretty On The Inside’ and the goosebump raising ‘Northern Star’ still reverberate with all the heart-piercing magic that has made her one of rock’s most infamous artists.

Though she lost a note or two towards the end, Love’s growling yells rung out with a rebellious power, truly primal and wrenching. This show served to remind that behind all the eclipsing personal drama, Love is still credible, still epic, and will always be cherished for gifting us with some of the best, most enduring anthems of the last two decades.

Charlotte Richardson Andrews

Photo by Outwithmycamera, used under Creative Commons License.


4 Comments so far
Leave a comment

spot on!

Comment by m

I’m not at all sure about this revival; to me it seems as though Courtney’s simply scarring Hole’s good name. The reunion would have been far more credible if Melissa had been involved, as Courtney originally threatened, but even then, the lack of Eric is damning. Not to mention the presence of Noel Fielding in the audience; that surmises my doubts totally.

Comment by Tiffany

Aye, I think we all have misgivings. I guess the ultimate proof lurks in the album, which I must say I am dreading. DREADING.

Comment by Wears The Trousers magazine

I would love to read a retrospective on Hole’s career and especially on the relevance it bears to a lot of women – it’s depressing to see how many people unfairly dismiss her influence in this respect. I think some people (mainly men) don’t get just how powerful her music and image could be for a girl. They probably have so many rock role models they take it for granted. To me, Courtney Love was a complete epiphany. She was making rock songs about being a woman, using explicitly feminine imagery, expressing her love-hate relationship with girliness, and doing so without the sometimes diluted message of many riot girrl bands (I love riot grrrl bands, mind you, but Hole always seemed more complex and three-dimensional to me). Plus, she was the living, walking example of a tons of infuriating double-standards. What was/is not to love?

Comment by Gaia

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