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Courtney Love Holds it Together, Delivers at the Vic

By Joseph Erbentraut in Arts & Entertainment on Jul 15, 2010 5:20PM

Photo by Andrew Keller
Judging by recent reviews in other cities, it would be safe to say that most of the audience packed into the Vic Theatre Wednesday for the first of a two-night engagement featuring Courtney Love and her latest incarnation of Hole came expecting a meltdown. A trainwreck. Perhaps even an on-stage bottle-slinging, cuss-intensive teary-eyed emotional breakdown.

But I have a feeling the now-46-year-old Love takes a lot of pride in not giving people what they expect or even what they necessarily want. Instead, in an unlikely feat of musical redemption, Love and her backing band delivered a 90-minute set that moved beyond coherence and tiptoed onto the territory that earned Love her props as an indomitably ferocious songwriter and performer.

Love, wearing a short black, backless dress with knee-high black leather boots, launched into her set with a competent and the fittingly-titled cover of the Rolling Stones' "Sympathy for the Devil" before segueing into "Skinny Little Bitch," the scathing first single off Hole's latest effort, Nobody's Daughter. Love's unparalleled howl continued to soar through many of the band's classic efforts - "Miss World," "Violet," "Doll Parts" - with some occasional moments of weakness revealed when she tried to slow the pace down: A slightly painful cover of Leonard Cohen's "Take This Longing" and a rough three-song series of acoustic ballads that closed a seven-song encore.

And, of course, there were moments where Love inched off track, usually while gesturing wildly with a cigarette in hand. There were Billy Corgan jabs sprinkled throughout the set and she reserved crass words for one pesky female audience member: "Shut up ... If you're trying to emulate yourself after me, don't do it. I was never that loud ... It's a bad caricature." And she pestered another female audience member to join others in throwing her bra onto the stage, saying: "It's a cheap cut, I can see it from here."

But those moments of awkward-at-times chatter between the songs were far overshadowed, thankfully, by the songs themselves. Perhaps fueled by the critical panning of several recent gigs, Love delivered a slightly discordant but mainly entertaining set to an audience filled with many who are still shrieking along to her every riotous word.

Hole plays a second show tonight at the Vic Theatre, 3145 N. Sheffield, 8 p.m. Click here for tickets.