Courtney Love In Concert - New York, NY
Updated: August 21, 2013 6:13AM
In April 1994, the rock universe temporarily revolved around Courtney Love: early that month, the L.A.-based musician’s band, Hole, released its monumental grunge LP, “Live Through This.” Even more significant, days before the album dropped, her husband, Nirvana’s Kurt Cobain, died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound. The years since have not been kind to Love — what with her copious drug problems, custody battles and most recently, a series of Twitter rampages. Yet as evidenced on Thursday night at the House of Blues, Love, now 49, fights on, forever poised to regain fame’s translucent glow.
Despite her numerous struggles, Love has remained a surly, provocative presence in the live arena. “Dreams do come true!” she said, beaming near show’s end, flitting about in her black-and-white blouse-and-leather-pants get-up, tossing her bleached-blond hair across her face. Her demeanor could change on a dime: minutes earlier, there she was, howling expletives and revving up her four-piece band as it launched into a seemingly impromptu cover of Fleetwood Mac’s “Gold Dust Woman (“I’m gonna change the set. They hate when I do this”).
It was the singer’s guttural howl that always has made her most endearing. It’s a vocal trait best exemplified on “Live Through This” tracks like “Miss World” and “Violet,” the former of which she opened with on Thursday night, entering in grand fashion to pre-recorded orchestral music.
Unfortunately, little of said howl remains nowadays: on “Skinny Little Bitch,” the lone standout from Hole’s reunion album, “Nobody’s Daughter” (2010), Love’s once-throaty growl was dragged undertow, engulfed by a muddy sea of feedback-drenched guitars. During her rendition of “Honey,” a throwaway cut off the same album, Love’s voice was nothing short of shrill and whiny.
Perhaps her voice was not given the proper forum to shine: when stripped of the chugging background noise and accompanied only by an acoustic guitar during encore versions of “Dying” and “Petals,” Love was utterly magnetic: her voice whisked through the speakers with just the right blend of cigarette-and-whiskey scratchiness.
In Love’s mind though, she was likely having the show of her life: no matter her many performance-related deficiencies, the rowdy House of Blues crowd bathed her in praise. Their deafening responses to Hole classics like “Celebrity Skin” (1998) and “Malibu,” not to mention the rock-star treatment shown toward the singer (“First panties of the night!” Love said after a pair was thrown onstage), signified she was in the presence of a collection of diehards.
“You don’t remember mosh pits, do you?” the singer implored her fans midway through her set. Of course they did. And they howled back at her to demonstrate as much. Love may not have thought much of the comment. But it was a rather fitting reference for her show.
Like the singer, moshing is something of a relic. But every so often, there it is, popping up at a gig, a rock convention that’s practically gone yet still clinging on to its last glimmer of cultural relevance.
Dan Hyman is a locally based free-lance contributor.