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TV REVIEW : Courtney Love's Pure Emotion on 'MTV Unplugged'

April 17, 1995|ROBERT HILBURN

For all the attention and acclaim alternative-rock goddess Courtney Love has received, she remains a largely unheard quality.

Her band, Hole, hasn't had a mainstream radio hit, and its only formal Los Angeles shows since her stardom were at the relatively small Palace and Hollywood Palladium.

The group's performance tonight on "MTV Unplugged" gives everyone a chance to catch up with Love with a flick of the remote.

While some of the energy of the group's live shows (including Love's daredevil leaps into the audience) is absent in the sedate TV setting, the hourlong set offers an absorbing look at the group's introspective examinations of life's temptations and trials.

Given Love's tendency to turn the stage into a live on-line session where she shares her latest opinions between songs, Love proves surprisingly businesslike in the concert, which was taped in New York on Valentine's Day.

Except to play some unreleased material by her late husband, Kurt Cobain, Love doesn't turn the evening into a maudlin bookend to Cobain's memorable "MTV Unplugged" stint with Nirvana.

Still, there is no way to avoid making a bittersweet connection when she sings one of Cobain's final lyrics:

"Things have never been so swell

I have never been so well."

Love is so naturally flamboyant that she often comes across to outsiders as more a personality than an artist.

Tonight, however, the artist is on display. Her singing is sometimes ragged, but the emotion is powerful and pure.

* "MTV Unplugged Presents Hole" premieres Monday at 10 p.m. on MTV.

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