WHILE never far from the eye of a media storm for much of the last 22 years over something she’s said, done or tweeted, Courtney Love remains one of the most charismatic figures in American alternative rock.
Here she and her four-piece band, which includes Ginger Wildheart on guitar, arrive onstage with knowing humour to the overblown strains of Ravel’s Bolero then tear into her punky new song Wedding Day.
Her floral patterned robe is swiftly discared for something black and flimsy and we’re plunged into the dark grungy Miss World and Plump from her erstwhile band Hole’s breakthrough album, Live Through This, released in the immediate aftermath of the suicide of Love’s husband Kurt Cobain 20 years ago.
For all the distance from past trauma, lines such as “Somebody kill me” remain powerfully unsettling.
There’s a nod to one of Love’s abiding musical inspirations, with a cover of Fleetwood Mac’s Gold Dust Woman, before a run of Hole’s most commercial songs – Malibu, Reasons To Be Beautiful and Pacific Coast Highway – the latter seemingly addressed to Cobain and containing some of her finest lyrics. “I knew a boy, he left me so damaged/Do you even know the extent of what you ravaged,” she howls in one of rock’s great rasping voices.
Even Love seems bemused by the enduring popularity of Rock Star. “This song is so dumb and I don’t know why you like it,” she jokes before it induces a sea of pogoing once more.
Current single You Know My Name is despatched at breakneck speed but Love resists her once famous penchant for hurling herself into the audience topless. “No, I’m not going to get my t*** out,” she smirks, observing her age – 49 – and quite simply, that she’s “not in the mood”.
Old favourites Violet and Celebrity Skin are well received but it’s in the acoustic encore, accompanied by English guitarist Micko Larkin, that Love shows her quieter side, growling through a particularly striking version of Northern Star, then rounds off proceedings with a rousing full-band rendition of Doll Parts.
“God save the queen of rock,” declare the mugs on her merchandise stall, tongue in cheek. Tonight it’s very hard to disagree.
Gig date: May 16