Courtney Love Live
Live at the House of Blues Chicago, IL on July 18th, 2013
The last time I saw Courtney Love in the flesh was three years ago and she was on fire, not literally, but inside the Vic Theatre, she roared through a 90-minute set of Hole's top material alongside a concentrated dose of her then latest record the underrated Nobody's Daughter. Love severed a piece of her soul on this record so that not only can she make sense of it, but also in the hopes someone else will crawl out of the depths of their own personal hell and make it to the other side. The greatest records are ones where the listener can dive into, get swallowed whole and come out the other end with a better understanding of themselves; Nobody's Daughter is one of those records and over her all too brief 80-minute set at Chicago's House of Blues, the most enlightening moments came from this undervalued record.
Walking up to a microphone with a cigarette in her hand, Courtney Love stepped in front, looked out onto the crowd and simply stated "hey" before she proceeded to pick up a Rickenbacker guitar to take the crowd into sensory overkill. Opening with "Miss World", she sent the crowd into a state of exhilaration with her tough vocals, steely eye squints and a five piece-backing band that is better than anyone could imagine. Love is the sole female member at this stage in the game and instead of touring under the Hole name, this time around, it's all her. She wore a white shirt, black vest and black leather pants. Despite being well dressed, she still would smoke cigarettes here and there and there was always the sense that the show could go down an alternate and precarious path.
Despite being creative over the last several years, there is always a sense of ambiguity in the air when she is in the room; this is not a negative connotation either. What I have always loved most about her and other people like Axl Rose is their readiness to bring their sum total life with them up on the stage. One scream is all it takes to rotate the set, which she did immediately following "Skinny Little Bitch". "I'm going to change the set" and with her band, including the extraordinary Ginger Wildheart on guitar, they seamlessly began "Gold Dust Woman" from Fleetwood Mac. While not planned, it shifted the evening down an unforeseen path. Love was attentive and bracing during the first two numbers, but it was on this cover when she went deep and brought the audience into her world. Her right hand gripped the microphone while her left hand's grip was equally tight on the stand. Her eyes were closed and inside her mind, she trekked through uncharted waters developing a language with her audience. During the chorus, she flung her arms to the open air. Some covers are a way to excite the audience so the artist can revel in their applause and others are done because it's part of the artist's fabric. Courtney Love owned this rendition of "Gold Dust Woman". If you think you know it from the The Crow: City Of Angels soundtrack, then you are in for a revelation. I have never seen Courtney Love more energetic, more revitalized or more animated in her career. Her backing band had an exceptional power, which helped raise the entire performance.
Most of Live Through This was performed; "Violet" (which she wrote in Chicago), "Doll Parts", "Plump" and "Asking For It" all had an unassailable grip on the crowd, which skewed females aged from their teens to their later forties. Right before "Violet" a female fan asked for a hug that Love quipped back quickly stating, "I'll kiss you, but I won't hug you". She was in prime form all night. She mentioned how she sent flowers to Pearl Jam who was prepping not far from the House of Blues for their stadium show at Wrigley Field. Love simply charmed the Chicago crowd, but she mostly left her statements come through the music.
"Dying" was an acoustic number that displayed bottomless vulnerability. You have to admire an artist willing to lay it all on the line that opens themselves up to those who sharpen their pens. Artists are admired as much as they are hated. Courtney Love can be an electric current every day of the week and never have I seen her simply sing a song, it is a performance of the highest order. She goes somewhere within to capture the pain from the past to deliver the song lyrically in a way you will never hear again after that performance. The mid-tempo number "Honey" had Love slaying demons into dust with her piercing screams. "Honey" is yet another cut from Nobody's Daughter, on which Love truly transcended the audience's expectations. By the look of the performance you would believe she recently experienced a crisis on conscience recently, but by all accounts she appears to have her life on the right track which makes the delivery of the song that much more consequential. If all stays according to plan, Love will have a new record in stores before the end of the year, which may or may not be titled Died Blonde along with an autobiography, which should find its way to the top of the best seller's list. However, anyone who buys the book should know the full story could be seen by buying a concert ticket to see the full range of possibilities, emotions and truth flow from her songs.
On "Pacific Coast Highway" she was excising something from within. I cannot tell if she was envisioning a former love, driving down the infamous California highway on a perfect day or some other deep-seated ache she was working out on the stage. In the end none of it matters as Courtney Love simply suffers from the crossfire's of life, just the same as every one of us. As the song ended Love looked at peace and blissful- she was the embodiment of pure beauty in this glimpsing moment. Her eyes gazed out into the crowd with a gleam in her smile. The twinkle in her eye told the audience that when she was at her lowest, she walked up to what she thought was a locked door, turned the key and made her way to the other side never to look back. It may have taken her a lifetime to get here, but she has finally arrived with the whole world in her hands.
Anthony Kuzminski is a Chicago based writer and Special Features Editor for the antiMUSIC Network. His daily writings can be read at The Screen Door. He can be contacted at tonyk AT antiMUSIC DOT com and can be followed on Twitter
Courtney Love Live
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