Hole’s show in Madison Saturday started sloppily, gained steam – teetering on singer Courtney Love’s frail emotional state – then crumbled into one of the most jarring concerts you’ve ever seen.
It was that disturbing and that sad. And more.
Oh, someone, please get Love help.
When it ended – with a topless Love swinging wildly at a concertgoer on stage – one felt particularly unclean. Yet, this wasn’t a freak show at the sold-out Paramount Music Hall; no one could have scripted these events.
The widow of Kurt Cobain, Love had the audience’s loud support before the show. Afterward, she had our pity, having given us an unsettling glimpse at her tortured soul during the 90-minute show.
When she asked – no, pleaded – with the crowd to chant “bitch” at her midway through the all-ages concert, Love became a pathetic character, a pinup for rock music’s worst excess.
“How’s my self-esteem?” she asked after the crowd’s half-hearted response to the “bitch” chant, then answered herself sarcastically, “Doing well, obviously.”
Ironically, Love fought hard, before and after Cobain’s suicide, to earn well-deserved respect for herself as an artist. Material from Hole’s acclaimed major label debut, “Live Through This,” formed the core of Saturday’s show, which included flashes of raw rock brilliance.
During “Asking For It,” Love pulled a young female fan from the tightly packed crowd and let her join in the fiery chorus. It was a powerful moment that made the second of two opening acts, Veruca Salt (Chicago media darlings who are hailed as the Next Big Thing), seem comatose by comparison.
But Love cracked. Fifteen minutes into the show, she furiously left the stage and implied that she would not return after blaming the promoter for sound problems (it sounded fine). When she came back, she proceeded with more tirades, mostly about her sex life. That Love could intersperse these moments with playfulness, including two Duran Duran covers, made it oddly creepy.
In addition, she ridiculed fans and offered more vulgar chants. Her bandmates looked like they wanted to disappear through the stage.
Finally, during the encore, she showed some sense and explained in great detail about how it’s too dangerous for her to stage-dive into the crowd.
Then, inexplicably, she did a stage-dive into the rambunctious audience, setting off a chilling scene.
When security guards and her road crew pulled her out, Love’s dress had been torn off. She re-emerged onstage topless and out of her mind, demanding that the guy she claims pulled at her dress come onstage. When he was brought next to her, she attacked him.
Several Paramount security members finally ended the melee, carrying Love kicking and screaming from the stage.
Any impact the music had was silenced.