Hole, Little Fish
Rough, edgy, totally brilliant. Hole, Brixton Academy 5 May 2010. I didn't make it last time round, I think a lot of us didn't and the needy tension showed. Outside Brixton Academy an hour before official door opening time and the queue was three deep and half a street long.
Got inside and clung desperately through two support acts to a spot in the second row. The support acts were good, in the case of Little Fish, something approaching great and worth a moment's pause. Front woman Juju, snake skinny in a ripped tee shirt and leather jacket, started as she meant to go on, jumping straight onto one of the stage front monitors and frenziedly showing us why she might be a worthy of comparison to PJ or Patti. It was riot grrl solidarity from both bands but that wasn't the business of the night.
As anticipation built, there were photographers in the pit half an hour in advance, the sure sign of some expected great event. There was desperation in the audience, almost a fight, something to do with smaller people behind taller people. It got settled by mutual shouting "Fuck you" "No, fuck you". Security were going to have their work cut out, some poor girl had to be pulled out of the stage front crush before the band even got on stage. Just lowering the backdrop curtain was enough to raise whooping and hollering and cause a push forward.
A few minutes after nine the house lights dimmed, the stage spots came on and we were toyed with by the orchestral strains of Ravel's Bolero for a minute or two. The crush at the barrier grew, my sincere thanks to the soldiers of the front row for being an effective cushion.
Eventually but with a rush, the band came on. I say the band, the rest might have been footballer's wives for all the attention they were going to get a night. Yes I look back with affection to the old band, and I would have dearly loved to have seen Melissa and the rest of them up there, but this was all about one person, make no mistake.
Courtney was looking like a sexy schoolteacher in a pinafore dress and blouse but there was going to be no primness as they utterly ripped into current single Skinny Little Bitch. I've loved this band and held Courtney in esteem for such a long time, through the years when she was accused of surviving off the talents of others, first Kurt and then Billy (that's a laugh when you look back) and I still don't claim to be a scholar. I don't know what this song is supposed to be about, but for me there was little doubt that the Skinny Little Bitch in question was Courtney herself.
The new album Nobody's Daughter is just out, so the question was what would tonight draw from, new, old or both? My question was answered in the second song of the night Doll Parts. It's my favourite Hole song above all others, the power and the sparcity. I'd mused on the way there in a kind of 'wouldn't it be nice if they played it' fashion, so for me it could have ended right there, sated, done.
Of course it didn't end there. Juju from Little Fish had promised us that Courtney was on fire and that just about describes it. I've read and thought about the new album's difficult genesis, and I can see that. I've also read Courtney recently say that her music is all she really has right now. If there has been difficulty getting here, tonight's performance was her vindication and salvation. I can't even describe it in a ' this song, next song' fashion.
Stuff from the new record were greeted as ecstatically as Violet or Northern Star. There was a cover of Take This Longing by Leonard Cohen. At one point Courtney grabbed the guitar saying that she had written it so she might as well fucking sing it. We were treated to mini-stories, mainly about men. One in particular concerned a certain Billy Corgan who she said she was "can you believe it, romancing at the time" and then proceeded to pretend their relationship had been purely platonic. I don't think there's much platonic about this woman.
Despite recently deciding to change it, there is no coincidence in the name, Courtney needs to feel love. She complained that she couldn't see or hear us and insisted that the house lights were brought up and stayed on most of the night. Until that is she'd had enough, proclaiming "that's it you can turn them down, I've seen enough of you".
Courtney warned us that when she cried, she sounded like a frog. She wept to prove the point, and did. Her voice was everything it might be at the start but was cracking at the end. She insisted she had given us everything and I think she did
She promised us three hours of fun, although in the event it was more like one and three quarters. She said that there would be nudity, that she'd get her tits out and that we'd get our tits out, then went back on her word, saying she was too old. She'd been teasing is all night saying that she would play in her underwear. This she made good on, eventually declaring this was the moment, stripping off her conservative frock to carry on in her vaudeville style skimpies.
By the time we got to Malibu, there was just Courtney, guitarist and something of a singalong. We went to the whole gamut from rockstar blaze to campfire but it was never anything less than burning.
For the encore, Courtney came back out in a T-shirt and a pair of flouncy frilly knickers. What else would you expect? I don't quite know what the last song was going to be, but she changed her mind at the last minute asking if we wanted Doll Parts again? Of course we did. She wanted a volunteer to join her to sing it and after a tiny bit of debate - did he know the words? could he sing the song? chose the lad I had been leaning against in that sweaty heaving mosh pit all night. He was dragged disbelieving from the crush to join her on stage where he just really did a very good job of being in awe. We all were really.
Hole Photo by Carsten Windhorst.