April 7, 2004
Love, Courtney : New York Bowery Ballroom
...even her burnout is awe-inspiring to watch...
Famed playwright (and early music critic) George Bernard Shaw once wrote: "If you can't get rid of the skeletons in your closet, you'd best teach them to dance." No-one understands this better than Courtney Love. She knows that we're here as much for the spectacle as for the music - to see a notoriously damaged, crazed, fame-hungry rock star unravel before our eyes - and she does not disappoint.
She strides onstage two hours late and begins
a raspy, rambling monologue that she and her
all-girl band occasionally interrupt with a song. Although it's difficult to make out what she's saying, the same words keep cropping up: "drugs", "jail", "drugs", "masturbation", "drugs", "LAPD", "drugs", "nervous breakdown".
She takes off her dress, dons a T-shirt that says 'Eat My Fuck', then takes that off and finishes the show in nothing but tights and a bra. "I so need to get fucked," she announces, "it's beyond funny. Is there anyone else here who needs a good fuck?" This is the only moment in the entire show that receives applause. She is flanked by two man-mountains in black suits, whose job it is to fish
her out of the crowd when she stagedives, and
to make sure - presumably - that she doesn't whack anyone with a mic stand again. At one point she lunges for someone in the crowd, shrieking, "You misogynist fuck, your ass is mine!" then seems to forget what she's doing. "I'm sorry, Christina Aguilera," she mutters. "I'm a little out
of control." Then she sings some of 'Beautiful', and says, "Oh, Linda, why did you give that song to her?" She claims that her voice is too far gone ("Jail does that to you") to sing the songs on the setlist, but manages a few inspired covers -
Pearl Jam's 'Jeremy', 'Til Tuesday's 'Voices Carry', then 'Hold On To Me' and 'All The Drugs' from 'America's Sweetheart' and a handful of disjointed Hole songs. But, of course, the music isn't the point any more. We are watching Courtney Love
go off the rails.
One wonders if this is by accident or design. Courtney Love is an extremely intelligent woman. Bonkers, yes. Deluded, yes. Drug-addled, probably. But also very savvy. She needs attention, at any cost - hence the arrests, the breasts, the overall mess - and she's revelling in it. Like a car crash or a fat stripper - she's something equally frightening and compelling, and she knows it. Again and again she leaps into the crowd, relying on them to carry her, lift her, adore her - and they comply. It's simply incredible that someone who has so much control over a room can have so little control of herself. It's sad, but you don't feel bad for her. It's funny, but you can't laugh at her.
She's somehow too magnificent, even at her most pathetic. Courtney Love burns so brightly, even
her burnout is awe-inspiring to watch.
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