There was a sketchy edict before this RSVP Manhattan cattle call that it wasn’t “for review” and that journalists should, I guess, just stand around and sip $10 cocktails and act like we didn’t see that gruesome, babbling death-mask video after a recent London show and instead reminisce about our favorite Hole concert at the Academy in Times Square in the mid-’90s when Courtney planted her black pump on a monitor and shredded all the doubters who dismissed her as a toxic phony (while Drew Barrymore giddily leaped up and down at the side of the stage wearing her tiny backpack). Oh man, those days were, like, so not shitty!
Of course, there’s been a lot of crack through the pipe since then, and all I can think of is who’s taking care of that poor beagle that Courtney brought to court when she was facing felony possession charges awhile back? Is he getting his Frontline medication regularly? Is he being fed high-quality dry food or is she throwing him scraps of her gourmet takeout pizza? Geez, it’s all too chilling to contemplate.
Anyway, in keeping with the “informal” nature of last Thursday night’s event, we’ll dispense with a regular review and give you an overview in the form of 10 Pros and Cons. Hopefully, her management will appreciate our restraint.
1. Despite random, unprovoked non sequiturs like “It’s over, Paris went to jail, OK?” and “I’m old enough to be your mom. I am your mom,” Courtney Love appeared to be stone cold sober! If she hadn’t been, she probably wouldn’t have been able to slog through an hour-and-a-half set without hurling one mic stand in the direction of a “bottom-feeding asshole” photographer.
2. Her band was attractive, young, and competent (though it was unclear whether they’d ever met each other before).
3. During the chorus of the new song “Pacific Coast Highway,” the group actually locked into a roaring rock groove and Courtney, in a moment of pure exhilaration, jumped on and off a monitor (without incident or injury), while the room let out a loud gasp. Staggering back to the mike, a wide collagen smear of red spread across her face. Almost touching.
4. The drag queens in attendance seemed to be having a fine time.
5. Former Yeah Yeah Yeahs manager Asif Ahmed is now working with Courtney and seemingly has no devious motives. Godspeed to you, young warrior.
6. Despite being an event that the New York dailies would usually insult as “lousy with hipsters,” a majority of the patrons actually seemed to be Hole fans who desperately wanted Courtney do something to justify their/our unreasonable patience with her ever-immolating career. And when the bright, splashy chords of “Malibu” started, the crowd (for an instant) collectively beamed.
7. The kid guitarist who accompanied her during an acoustic version of Celebrity Skin power ballad “Northern Star” was somehow on point throughout the song, even though Courtney’s voice wobbled and weaved and collapsed, as she hung on for dear life like Chuck Wepner in that ’75 Ali title fight. The Hiro really should’ve provided a cut man for this one.
8. It must be said, she was endearingly feisty. Defending a sprawling new ballad that had Linda Perry scrawled all over it, she bellowed: “It’s Bon Jovi-esque, but cool, so shut up!” Actually, it sounded more like your weird aunt Trudy (the one who still smokes L&Ms because she hoarded them in the attic back in the ’70s) stumbling through “November Rain” on Guitar Hero, but that’s beside the point.
9. Gotta love those drag queens. Boy, are they festive.
10. No Corgan cameo — always a blessing.
1. Let’s face it, at this point, an hour and a half of Courtney is about 45 minutes too much. Especially when the last third is a turgid series of tuneless, caterwauling, open-wound ballads. And why won’t she play one single song off America’s Sweetheart, an astonishingly great record (considering the artist was in a morbid free-fall at the time)? Few of us have ever heard that stuff live, unlike, say “Miss World” and “Doll Parts,” which at this point have been strip-mined of all meaning.
2. The voice is just plain shot — and she’s also developed a nagging nasal whine (likely attributable to unnatural treatment of certain passages). But hey, that’s what Pro Tools is for.
3. The bleached-to-oblivion mop of straightened hair — with bangs! — looks like an ill-fitting wig that’d be laughed off the set of a ChiChi LaRue flick.
4. After her surprisingly successful rendition of “Pacific Coast Highway,” a somewhat emboldened Courtney cracked off-handedly with a noir moll swagger: “It’s like sex, I get a little, you get a little.” All together now, kids — bllleeeeccchh! Let’s put it this way, if we’d known that ahead of time, we would’ve brought more protection.
5. A between-song remark about “my eating disorder” was supposed to be sarcastic, but her twig-like arms and Pick-up Stick legs told a different, all-too-familiar story.
6. You know how trashy, ’70s-style punk bands, especially ones involving people with hard drug problems, can settle into a stumbling, mid-tempo lurch that ends up sounding “bluesy” by default (R.I.P. Johnny Thunders)? Sadly, that’s the, uh, vibe of Courtney’s new material.
7. When you’ve sold off 25 percent of Nirvana’s lucrative publishing catalog, don’t go onstage and perform a mawkishly aching ballad where you proclaim, over and over, that you’ll “never go hungry again.” In short, no shit.
8. When your guitar player manages to not screw up a song, don’t go out of your way to congratulate the poor shmuck by saying, “Give him a hand, he broke his fuckin’ cherry on it. He’s 20!” And you’re 43 and Kurt’s dead and we’re very tired.
9. It seems like she’s taken out the breast implants, folks. Maybe not. But that’s what it looks like. And considering how many times she’s pulled her top up in the middle of a show to proudly expose Dr. 90210 or whomever’s handiwork, it actually makes you feel kinda wistful — or gross.
10. To tell you the truth, the drag queens were kinda depressing.
For more photos from the show, visit nickydigital.com.