One of the great female rock stars
Loving (Courtney) Love: She rocks hard with Hole and disses Madonna
The warehouse of personal non-music baggage that Courtney Love carries around makes it easy to forget the sizeable contribution she made to the history of '90s rock 'n' roll. It's wasn't until she stepped away from her band Hole for a decade, however, that her imprint began to sink in.
Tuesday night at the House of Blues an affable, relaxed Love took the stage with the reincarnation of Hole (her three-man backing band is a complete replacement from any past lineups you might remember) with the purpose of showcasing songs from the group's first album in 12 years, Nobody's Daughter. What she ended up doing instead is reminding us why Hole's back catalog of hits was so vital.
Forget for a moment that she was the wife-turned-widow of Nirvana lead singer Kurt Cobain or the one-time lover of Smashing Pumpkins leadman Billy Corgan. It has often been said that without them her career wouldn't exist.
After watching Hole rip through a 27-song set that culled not only the band's entire career, but the careers of everyone from The Rolling Stones to Nina Simone to Nine Inch Nails, I say it's time to give Love some artistic credit based on her own merits.
Nirvana and its Seattle peers may have been the catalyst for grunge rock, but Hole's 1994 album Live Through This (released four days after Cobain's suicide from a self-inflicted rifle shot in his and Love's Seattle home) are the earliest melodic screams of post-grunge from the only person who could offer a window into the self destruction of world's then-biggest rock icon.
Listening to Love sing songs from Live Through This now not only makes its themes of drugs abuse, suicide and self-immolation seem like a bit of prophecy. It also make one realize that, if it weren't for Kurt and Courtney's daughter, Frances Bean, Love might have followed Cobain to a self-made grave.
Seeing her perform in a healthy, airy state-of-mind is emblematic of just how far she's come from those dark and scary days.
"I couldn't find a bra, so there was some panic," said Love in offering a playful apology for Hole's tardy arrival to the stage.
Once she hit the first notes of the pre-fame-but-beloved first album title track, "Pretty On the Inside," followed by a brief cover of The Rolling Stones, "Sympathy for the Devil," all was forgiven.
The first half-hour of Hole's set was masterful, moving quickly from the swinging offensive grind of "Skinny Little Bitch" to the beautifully damaged flat notes of the Live Through This singles, "Miss World," and "Violet." She then moved into previously unmarked territory for Hole with hollow, vocal-heavy covers of Nine Inch Nails' "Closer"and Nina Simone's "Feeling Good."
In a short amount of time, Love proved that she still had the chops in her mid-40s to evoke the finest female guttural roar in all of rock 'n' roll while simultaneously demonstrating that she no longer has to do so to be relevant.
Most important is that, through it all, she has kept a great sense of humor. Throughout the set she bantered with her devoted Twitter fans up front, fueled the flames of her decade-long feud with Madonna, praised and blazed former band members and came clean with the realities of age.
"I'm 46 years-old. I'm not playing 'Teenage Whore', " she said to fans chanting a request for one of Hole's earliest singles.
She did thrill the diehards with other past favorites, including the racing punk of "Awful" and the breezy strum of "Malibu."
She ended the show with the autobiographical new song "Never Go Hungry," but retelling her story at this point was unnecessary.
Not only had I already relived the good and bad that makes Courtney Love tick, I also realized how much I missed one of the last of the true great female rock stars.