Courtney Love playing a free show in New York? How could I not try to go. I missed her infamous last engagement in the city, where she introduced a fan’s head to her microphone stand. The time before, I spent my entire lunch break on hold with Ticketbastard, trying to get tickets to her Summerstage show. I succeeded, only to have to concert cancelled a week later. Courtney owed me! Plus, despite her being a train wreck of a human being at times, she’s an icon. The Gen X Judy Garland. (Frances Bean, start getting your Liza eyelashes ready.)
I RSVP’d to the email I received, but due to the overwhelming response and the cuntiness of the venue (Hiro) there was no guarantee of entrance. Fine. Doors were to open at 10 PM, so I showed up at quarter till, to find a line around the block and back.
For two hours the line barely moved. To make matters worse, people were cutting ahead, going straight to the door, and getting in! And the venue did nothing to weed out people who had RSVP’d with those who had just decided to show up. My friend, who we’ll call Wingfield, was at a dinner party and was to meet me there when she finished. I texted her the dire circumstances, and our Plan B was for her to meet me, hang in line for a few minutes, and if it still looked hopeless we’d find a bar and drown our sorrows.
By 11:45, I was still stuck on the street, around the corner from the venue. One of the security guys had gone around telling us the venue was at capacity and chances were slim we’d get in. Still, I held out hope. Actually, I just don’t like being told I can’t do something. Wingfield phoned to say she was in a cab. “How do you feel about spending ten dollars?” Huh? Wingfield thought it would be in our best interest to slip a twenty to the doorman. I thought that sounded like a splendid idea.
Wingfield arrived and I sent her, low cut dress and all, to ply the doorman with her feminine wiles and a crisp Andrew Jackson. She returned unsuccessful. “He asked for forty.”
I was willing to part with ten bucks to get in to a free show I’d dutifully gotten on the list for, but twenty? Greed, thy name is doorman. We saw another member of the venue staff and Wingfield, undeterred, plumped her cleavage and tried a second time. Success! We were told to wait a minute or two, after which we were introduced to Ray. Walkie in hand, Ray ushered us into Hiro. Courtney was already onstage, a verse into “Malibu.” The die hards were in front, hands pumping in the air, digital cameras and cell phones taking picture after picture.
Courtney likes to say shut up. Frequently beginning any sentence she directed to the crowd with it, as in, “Shut up, I have to tune my guitar.”
Courtney looked good. Well, good for Courtney. In addition to the plastic surgery, she’s a charter member of the Heroin Preservation Society. You know, the handful of musicians and artists who’ve mainlined H and lived to sing another day. See also: Iggy Pop, David Bowie, Scott Weiland.
The new songs are great. Courtney is, as Billy Corgan says, “a vastly underrated songwriter.” (Yes, she co-wrote many of them with hit-maker Linda Perry. Still.) Her new material mines her familiar themes of love, salvation, destruction. The best cut is “Never Go Hungry Again.”
She was in fine voice, and by “voice” I mean her trademark yelps, growls, snarls, and throaty belt.
While she was mostly on good behavior, there was always the chance throughout she might teeter off the rails. And isn’t that what we want in a rock star? There she was, eyeliner smeared, chain-smoking and bringing it on every song. I don’t think the woman knows the meaning of phoning it in.
Watching Courtney Love is exhausting. She makes eye contact with the audience the entire time, and demands you give as much energy back as she puts out. I left spent and satisfied.
While blog reaction has been mixed, Love being a divisive figure (still), I for one am unapologetic for still liking Courtney, controversy and all.
The lesson: Sometimes free costs, and everything can be bought. Even the bouncers at Hiro.
Set List (via Product Shop NYC)
Samantha / Malibu / Stand Up Motherfucker / Sunset Marquis / Miss World / How Dirty Girls Get Clean / Nobody’s Daughter / Pacific Coast Highway / Doll Parts / Letter To God / Celebrity Skin // Never Going Hungry // For Once In My Life / Lost Dust /// Northern Star /// Happy Ending
[Image via NYmag]
Related: Lest you think that Love has moved past her wacky ways, see this video after her recent London show.