Courtney Love at the 9:30 Club

Must Be the Season of the Witch

I was impressed by Courtney Love’s titanic performance at the 9:30 Club, because it was singular, obnoxious, intentionally funny, and highly, perversely weird.

My criticism of rock music is obvious and enduring: Far from rebellious, rock is routinized, bland, boring, and plain – a slavish imitation of a cliche. Rest, peace: Everything is scripted, sculpted, stilted, drilled; every show follows the same conventions.

When rock ‘n’ roll was at its best it broke the mold, smashed it up, but can it still? Does the heart beat (like a dead horse) in this music any longer?

At the 9:30 Club, Courtney Love, the unerring Cleopatra of our time, at least subverted the dominant paradigm, and for a moment that gave me hope for tomorrow.

Nirvana became my favorite band when I was 12 and I never renounced ’em. Consequently, I enjoy “Live Through This” immoderately.
Nevertheless, I joined most reasonable people in regarding Courtney with distaste sometime late in the last century, and when she published Kurdt’s diaries I began to detest her (and subsequently memorized the diaries via a loan from a swank university library).

Due to her rights to Nirvana’s music, CL has received more of my hard-won money than the IRS and all of my legal heirs combined, so I would never willingly spend a dime to further subsidize her decadent existence, but she made one of my favorite albums, so I wanted to go, and because I have an 185% ultra-cool friend, I received two free tickets.

My +1 was on point, as always, but we got separated early in the set and she did not enjoy the show (if only she could have taken it in with the benefit of my enlivening company).

CL played beneath the hoary and wholly inappropriate Hole banner. Typical Courtney: usurping her band’s name from her erstwhile collaborators.

In the days leading up to this show I gave it a lot of thought. I used to give Nirvana, Hole and the like a lot of deep thought about a decade ago, and it was nice to get back to my roots, in the dirt.

During my contemplative period, I came to the understanding that in a worst-case scenario Love would lead her band of hired hacks (Eric Erlandson, RIP) in a crisp trip through some “rockin'” old tracks, making me exceedingly “novastalgic,” and that the band would then saunter through a slew of “Awful” post “Live Through This” soft rockers. I feared the show would be bland, boring, plain.
My fear was unwarranted, for this was an unbridled performance for the sages which accordingly left the squares furious and the true artists pleased.
At this point I must note the Washington Post review of this show. I think the author, David Malitz, put it well when he wrote:

But what, really, would have been the best-case musical scenario? A competent re-creation of songs more than a decade old, played by Love and her latest hired hands? Is that what people wanted to see — Courtney karaoke versions of ’90s MTV buzz clips? Maybe. But probably not. Perhaps a bit more professionalism would have been nice, but in 2010 you pay your $45 hoping for the Courtney Love Experience, knowing she’s a recovering addict and constant tabloid fodder for, among other things, losing custody of her daughter with the late Kurt Cobain. And Sunday night was an experience like no other.

… The between-song chatter was more like a monologue. Ten minutes without playing a song? Sure, let’s do that a few times. She talked about her courting style (“I never chase”) and being anorexic and bulimic; quizzed fans on the meaning of her late husband Kurt Cobain’s lyrics; twice mentioned how The Washington Post hated her new album “Nobody’s Daughter”; and name-dropped a “TMZ” episode’s worth of celebrities, from Trent Reznor to Diablo Cody to George Clooney, even Douglas Fairbanks.

Malitz gets it right, but still argues it was a terrible show. His review was quickly re-purposed and re-posted on scads of media outlets’ sites, and following from Malitz, the Seattle Weekly termed it Love’s worst show yet.

Malitz says you pay for the CLE in this day and age, and that we got the CLE alright, and that we bought some bad CLE.

I think we paid for the CLE, got the CLE, and got what we paid for, FTW.

This show was so funny and weird: She pissed on the mold. That doesn’t suck. It rules!

One aspect of the show which many people found frustrating was that Courtney had a tattooed woman apparently recording her every move using an iPhone.

This woman was onstage the entire show, often standing directly in front of Courtney and thereby significantly obscuring the crowd’s view of CL. A lot of people complained about this.

Naturally, I thought it was really weird and funny, and particularly enjoyed the fact that people were so upset about it.

During the show, shouting matches broke out between the pros and the cons.

Fan #1: “Boo! This sucks! Play a song!”
Fan #2: “WHY ARE YOU HERE!?!?!?!”
repeat, etc.

The handheld recording was so strange, calculated and unnecessary – what could be the point except to annoy people and be weird? (I guess it could also have been a play on the fact that Courtney spends every night on tour singing to a sea of iPhones (but maybe I’m giving Her too much credit; maybe she thought She would get some great footage that way – Christ knows).

The New Hole contains some totally average-looking rock dudes who wouldn’t look out of place at the Corpse Fortress or pretty much anyplace else.

The first song they played was a taste of “Pretty on the Inside,” which was strong, and the audience was rapturous.

Then they smoothly segued into “Sympathy for the Devil,” which was as good as it sounds (if you like Hole), or as bad as it sounds (if yr Malitz).
Then they played “Samantha,” “Miss World,” “Violet,” and the grungy new track “Pretty Your Whole Life.”

All these songs sounded about like you’d expect, were pretty slick, and were well-received.

Then they played Nine Inch Nails’ “Closer” as a “torch song,” which literally morphed into a Judy Garland song, which allowed CL to vamp and display her highly expensive physique. She is totally starting to look like an alien.

The next tracks played were more or less:
Letter to God
Asking for It
Jennifer’s Body

You would think this would be a rousing rendition of some sweet album cuts from LTT, but you’d be wrong, for at this point, things began to rapidly spiral through the looking glass.

Songs were attempted, started, abandoned.

Unusual alternate versions were played for the true fans.

Requests were taken. Pop-quizzes were offered, and similar audience interaction was held at great length. Many fans were brought onstage (including one who asked CL to sign something and was told “No interaction!”).

Courtney made amusing racial comments. She said the gays love her, etc.

The music got rough, but was tight enough on the poppy hits.

Those hooks are truly insidious and Linda Perry, Kurt Kobain, Erik Erlandson, Courtney Love, Melissa Au Der Maur, Justine Frischmann, Billy Corgan, Chad Channing and Kat Bjelland should be congratulated for writing them.

Despite the revelatory nature of this show, at this point in the evening I nonetheless found myself lost, alone, dehydrated, basked to a crisp, in a daze though I’d found God. I felt like I needed to get out of there, and still I stayed, for I knew something David Malitz did not: Courtney ripped up the rule book, and that’s the whole point. She was free from care. Why would She care what DM or any person alive thinks of Her? Who can judge Her? She took the piss out of everything, and that’s a corollary to the whole point.

She also interacted graciously, genuinely and at great length with true fans, which was really cool. Also, some of the tracks she played throughout the three-hour show were quite well-wrought. Musically, it wasn’t all that bad, and the meltdowns were a nice touch – kept it fresh, as previously indicated.

If you like her voice, her songs and her shtick, it was right-on.

The set-list after Olympia was, more or less:

Pacific Coast Highway
Sunset Marquis
Celebrity Skin
Someone Else’s Bed
Skinny Little Bitch

Doll Parts
Play With Fire (Rolling Stones cover)
Boys on the Radio
Take this Longing (Leonard Cohen cover)
Car Crash
Thirteen (Big Star cover)
Never Go Hungry
Northern Star

In particular, I enjoyed “Thirteen” and “Doll Parts.”

In sum, this was the most spontaneous, least professional show I can recall witnessing. I can’t believe I am a fan again.
She didn’t even play the last verse of the song!!

A fan for life’s response

One thought on “Courtney Love at the 9:30 Club

  1. I saw the Malitz thing and was kinda confused myself. Courtney Love is much like Axl Rose, and makes a name for herself equally by ugly behavior and good music. That her show was insane is sort of a testament to her legacy and again brings her press.

    She clearly has problems though, and I’d compare her to Lady Gaga in the way I’d compare Madonna to Michael Jackson. Living a tortured life exploiting themselves somewhat haphazardly or by proxy of where they have ended up, whereas the other thrives on lucratively exploiting themselves as a conscious, fairly controlled choice.

    Also, I’m sure she’d hang out or play at the C Fort if it weren’t for all her debts and guarantees and hordes of necessary sycophants.

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