Courtney Love tried hard to make people like her. She said "thank you" after almost every song, she told a number of guys in the audience that they were cute, and she even rewarded the thirty or so crowd surfers who made it to the stage by letting them sit there for the duration of the show.
Words, however, sometimes speak louder than actions. When she wasn't directing a stream of four-letter words at the audience, Love was either sniffing that only Kansas City and Cleveland failed to sell out on her current tour or deriding Trent Reznor's manhood.
Maybe it's just part of the punk-rock shtick. But if Love was ever a punk rocker, she certainly isn't now. Her tantrums came across as shallow and petty--especially since the receptors of her scorn were people who coughed up nearly $30 to see a show.
Hole drew mainly from its latest release, Celebrity Skin. Although the songs on the disc feature a range of dynamics and moods, more so than the ones on the cathartic agony of 1994's Live Through This, Love treated every song the same, attacking each one with gusto and real passion. She was coy at times, but more often than not, she screamed out as if laboring through childbirth. Her caterwauling was offset nicely by the sweet harmonies of bassist Melissa Auf der Maur, who noted that her first performance as a member of the group took place five years ago at Nautica. Guitarist Eric Erlandson and newcomer Samantha Mahoney on drums seemed content to remain in the shadows.
After a fifty-minute set, the group waited ten minutes before retaking the stage for an encore (perhaps because the crowd didn't go to any great lengths to bring them back). The encore began with a pair of acoustic songs, "Northern Lights" and Material Issue's "Valerie Loves Me." The full band kicked up the volume, culminating in a rousing, pulsating rendition of "Celebrity Skin."
Opener Imperial Teen played a lackluster 45-minute set. The band, fronted by former Faith No More keyboardist Roddy Bottum, plays fuzzy and generic alternative rock.
Wilbert's Bar & Grille
Suffering from a bum throat that left him with a self-described "trashy, horse-ass voice," Martin Sexton (backed only on drums) took the stage and declared the night a "lounge show." The arrangement seemed ideal, as the East Coast troubadour triumphed with two intimate sets of folk, soul, jazz, rock, and Western boogie.
Missing the top end of his mile-wide vocal range, Sexton adjusted his octaves and proceeded to dish out a full plate of dusty highway selections, stripped down to their emotional core. Each stirred up some sort of heartfelt fire. Sexton dug into his knapsack of creative vocal stylings to send each cut into unexpected directions, such as the scat singing on "Diggin'" or an old fisherman's voice in "The Way I Am."
Where Sexton really excels is his ability to captivate a crowd. In a club where an acoustic show can sometimes lose out to the pack of conventioneers at the bar, Wilbert's was still and silent. During "Glory Bound," as Sexton quietly strummed his guitar, you could hear the crackles of the kitchen fryer. The crowd remained attentive and happily harmonized when Sexton summoned them to help him out with the high parts. After the soulful sing-along "Love Keep Us Together," a sincerely impressed Sexton chuckled, "You're hired."
But damn if Sexton didn't rise up and hit the last impossible note of "America the Beautiful" to close things out. It was a poignant moment in an evening of astonishing intimacy. Not that his new recording isn't impressive, but if you've only got fifteen bucks in your pocket and the question is performance or disc, make it the show.
Sporting an enthusiastic arena attitude, singer Bob Feddersen of the Chicago quartet Loudmouth shouted out to "Cleveland" at the start of the show--even though there weren't enough locals to move a couch. No problem however, as the packhorse power group constructed a wall of piercing guitar and metal-loaded tones.
This band eats noise like Carnie Wilson eats corndogs. Their ravenous rock-hard rhythms are traceable to the early sounds of Black Sabbath and Kiss, but a modern buzz puts the band on its own musical turf. Bassist Mike Flaherty, whose fat, high-velocity chords were strictly old school, pounded out an impressive, John Paul Jones-inspired segment during "Rats in the Maze" and "No Heroes." Guitarist Tony McQuaid deployed snarling riffs throughout the show. Feddersen, long on unpretentious energy, equaled the guitar muscle with a resounding voice.
The modern metal sound eventually came to the fore during "Not Free" (which Metallica has been known to cover) and "End of the Century," while merging the sound with a punk vibe for the wholly original "Fly." All the evening's selections were tight, and the hooks that spiraled out of the fury were remarkably melodic. It's a big sound that, along with their Southside Chicago work ethic, should prove rewarding.
At worst, Loudmouth will continue to shake Chicago's foundation, because every city needs a band like this. At best, their sound finds momentum and they put a headlock on all the wanky ska brats that currently populate modern rock. Either way, they'll be shredding eardrums for quite some time. No complaints here. Besides, what's a Tuesday morning without a little ceiling plaster in your hair?