Despite arriving ridiculously early, the queue for ticket collection and the guest list was huge, when we reached the end further complications followed, which were resolved by a very efficient and apologetic member of staff. However, this resulted in missing the first act on which was Tiffany Page so I am afraid I cannot comment on anything about her performance.
The next band on was Little Fish, who have had support slots with a number of big named acts, and they burst onto the stage with some vigour. Despite being a duo, made up of drums and a guitar-playing vocalist, they have an additional keyboard player for tonight’s show, which adds some weight to the performance. Little Fish have some quirky numbers, which are pleasing the front row of the audience; however, I find them too obvious for my liking.
Their sound is too clean; some additional fuzz and distortion would have created a more interesting aural experience and possibly made the tracks edgier. Saying that though, you can’t fault the effort and energy that they put into their performance and Julia’s voice is very powerful, with distinct hints of Karen O, that justifies their place on the tour.
Hole enter the stage after an extended introduction of Ravel’s Bolero, which, to be honest, I wished they had played in full as I think it is one of the most emotive pieces of classical music written, and start with Pretty on the Inside which segues into the Stones’ epic Sympathy for the Devil. Surprisingly, Courtney Love’s vocals aren’t too terrible and the band that she has supporting her, which I struggle to call Hole, aren’t too terrible either and starting with a track from Hole’s best album is a positive start. Unfortunately, the sound desk has the guitars and drums low in the mix, making the vocals and keyboards more prominent and losing the raucous edge of the track. The lack of guitars is a problem throughout the set and means that the sound, which epitomises Hole, is absent and leaves each track with commercial overtones.
The set proceeds with Skinny Little Bitch and Miss World, which emphasises how many effects are on Courtney’s microphone but gets the main section of the audience jumping. Hole’s set consists of a number of cover versions, including Leonard Cohen’s Take This Longing which Courtney uses to show that Cohen is more than just Hallelujah but it falls flat on an audience that are here to see Live Through This in its entirety. Needless to say Violet gets the crowd back on side and sees Courtney handing over the microphone to the crowd to sing chunks of the song, because she has a sore throat from the previous awesome gigs she has supposedly played over the last few nights. After a detailed explanation about how she wished she had written the song or at least had it written about her, Courtney embarks on another cover version, this time setting her sights on Nine Inch Nail’s Closer, which she does stamp as her own but is ruined by finishing it with Patti Smith’s iconic Rock’n’Roll Nigga. I was fortunate to see Patti Smith perform this track live just over a month ago and Love is not even on the same page of talent or vocal skill to even be thinking of attempting to pull this song off.
The rest of the set contains a mixture of tracks from the new album mixed in with a number of older songs, all of which start to blur whilst Love verbally attacks the audience for being too quiet or not as good as the crowd in Glasgow, at least she pronounced Birmingham correctly but didn’t seem aware that Julian Cope grew up in Tamworth not Brum. Love’s vocals gradually deteriorate throughout the performance, managing to power through Doll Parts and Malibu, yet again handing the microphone over to the enthused members of the audience.
The set finishes with Celebrity Skin to rousing applause, which makes me think that I am in the minority wanting Hole to shun the commercial pop tracks and embrace the discordant, violence of tracks such as Teenage Whore and Beautiful Son. The encore does little to appease my unhappiness regardless of the inclusion of Asking For It, and I have to admit I am glad the gig is over. Don’t get my wrong, Hole weren’t awful but, weirdly I think this made it worse as I ended up walking out of the Academy feeling nonplussed about the whole event.
Review – Toni Woodward
Photos – Katja Ogrin