Following the recording of an acoustic performance for MTV UNPLUGGED at the Brooklyn Academy of Music on Valentines Day, HOLE played two sold-out shows at NYC's Roseland on the 15th (Wed.) and 16th (Thurs.) of February.
Anticipation was high as hundreds of anxious fans lined up outside Roseland on Wednesday night (assuredly, a significant number of whom had arrived several hours early to guarantee themselves a spot in the front row and possibly catch the band doing an afternoon sound check).
As per usual, scalpers scanned the crowd for the unfortunate, non-ticket holders who would be willing to cough up three times the original price for a ticket. If the task wasn't simple, it was only because fans doubted the authenticity of the tickets or could by-no-means afford the 300% increase in price. In fact, it appeared that more people looking to buy, rather than sell tickets.
Surely, any NYC area HOLE fan who had missed the show at the Academy in September (and had been hearing about it ever since) was not about to make the same mistake twice. Not to mention the multitude of newly-found HOLE fans who'd been recruited in the five months since the Academy show.
If the crowd outside Roseland on Wednesday night appeared tame, it was no indication of what was about to ensue inside. By the time the opening band, MOTEL SHOOTOUT, was half way through their set, the scene in front of the stage had become so intense that many of the early arrivals (primarily teenage girls under 100 lbs.) had already relinquished their spots to overpowering 'others' (primarily 200+lb., twenty-something males). As much as anyone who'd managed to salvage their spot wanted to deny it, there was no doubt that the problem would only escalate the moment HOLE emerged on stage.
Regardless of the far-from-grand entrance of the band, the crowd was instantly whipped into a hostile frenzy. Rather than delving into their first song, as might be expected, HOLE front woman, Courtney Love indulged the rowdy crowd with barely-audible conversation (mixed with complaints about the sound system).
Regretfully, I cannot recall what song the band opened with nor give an accurate chronology of the play list for the evening. Not because I'm unfamiliar with HOLE's body-of-work nor that I was in a star-struck daze but, because for much of the show I was battling to retain my far-from-perfect view of the stage (while at the same time, watching my companions being shuffled off in various directions).
Not only actions, but comments too, revealed Wednesday nights crowd to be particularly lacking in social couth and respect for the performers. Among the comments howled at Love by the male portion of the audience were: "Show us your tits, you f***ing c***!" and "Bring some of that over here, bitch!" One might ask how many spineless wimps pay $16+ to stand anonymously in a crowd and shout obscenities at a female performer who obviously can't take the time to challenge them. The answer: entirely too many to count! At one point, Love invited one such audience member on stage to explain what "the good stuff" he was repeatedly requesting be played, in fact, was. At the singer's challenge (guitar and hands behind her back) the young 'man' grabbed and wrestled her to the floor, out of view. When he emerged, hands raised above his head, he shouted into the microphone, "Let her play whatever she wants!", as if she'd somehow gained his respect. Whether her intention was to prove that she didn't fear him (my personal preference) or simply to create drama for the crowd is anyone's call.
Among the album material performed Wednesday night were: 'miss world, radio/MTV favorite 'doll parts', 'softer, softest', 'violet', 'gutless' (dedicated to Love's "f.r.i.e.n.d" Brad and little dick, a.k.a Trent Reznor), now classic 'teenage whore', 'pretty on the inside', and anthem-like 'rock star' (after which Love insisted, "You guys should like that one because Kurt wrote it.")
Among the not-so predictable: a playful mockery of Sonic Youth's 'Expressway to yr. skull', 'drown soda' (from the 'teenage whore' single and 'Tank Girl' soundtrack), 'Ain't Got No Right', and a new song the band had recently written while in Brazil.
As the show ended, rather than make her now famous stage dive into the crowd, Love opted to kick over a few amplifiers and make a quick exit. A decision, which to me, seemed perfectly appropriate since the crowd seemed not only threatening but undeserving. Although I was thoroughly impressed by how much the band had improved (become tighter) during the months they'd spent on tour, I was generally distraught about the Roseland show on Wednesday night. And as I began to meet up with various people outside Roseland, I found many to be in agreement. In a sense it seems ridiculous to have negative feelings about a show when the band's performance was unquestionably superior but, ambiance begins to seem important when thousands of hostile males are involved.
As a result of my Wednesday evening HOLE-crowd nightmare, I was not exactly counting down the minutes to the Thursday show. In fact, I'd almost forgotten just how much I liked HOLE when, at 8pm (my friend still hadn't arrived with my ticket), I found myself stuffing my maxed-out credit card into the nearest ATM machine, seconds away from becoming one of the sorry souls who would cough up $60 for a risky-at-best scalped ticket.
Fortunately, besides the bloody mess of a head injury in the lobby during the opening act, Roseland seemed an entirely different planet on Thursday night. Apparently either the culprits had released all their hostility the night before, taken valium, or stayed home. Besides repeating many of the songs from the night before (and sounding even better, partially due to improvements in the sound system) the band also performed 'Sunday Dress', Carol King's 'He hit me (and it felt like a kiss)', and 'Asking For it'.
Rather than another tension-inducing interaction with an audience member (i.e. Wed. night), on Thursday night Love pulled a young girl out of the audience for a five minute guitar lesson on stage. Strapping her guitar around the girls body, Love (in motherly fashion) leaned over and played the introduction to 'violet' several times then opted her young fan to do the same, after which she pointed at her and announced her as "future rock star." Regardless of what it was that changed (the crowd, the band, the phase of the moon), everything that had made the Wednesday night show undesirable had disappeared making Thursday a HOLEy awesome experience. And, yes, in the end Love soared!