Monday, July 29, 2013

Courtney Love's 9:30 Club Concert

Courtney Love Leads Hole Through Disastrous 9:30 Club Concert
(By David Malitz, Washington Post, June 28 2010, Photos by Kyle Gustafson)

We saw Hole at 9:30 club on Sunday. And we somehow lived through it.  Imagine a Hole concert that doubles as a complete Courtney Love meltdown. Not too hard to do. Now imagine it being 10 times more disastrous than that -- we're talking one incomplete song after another, offensive and rambling stage banter, exhibitionism, a mass exodus of paying customers. Now imagine it being nearly three hours long. You can start to get a picture of the epic train wreck that was Hole's Sunday night show at the 9:30 Club.

Maybe you watched her recent episode of VH1's "Behind the Music" and thought, "Hey, Courtney's finally getting her act together!" If you were at Sunday's show, you would have thought, "Hey, Courtney is somehow more messed up than ever!" It was an astonishingly and agonizingly awful performance that had a few fleeting moments of redeeming musical value. Song titles, lyrics, guitar chords -- Love remembered only some of them, and infrequently.  "You get the Bruce Springsteen set, sorry."  Courtney Love muttered those words at some point during Hole's show Sunday night at the 9:30 club. It's hard to remember exactly when. Time seemed to stand still for so much of the evening. If she meant that we were in for a nearly three-hour concert, then yes, her statement was true. If she meant that we would experience a well-oiled rock-and-roll machine and everybody would leave feeling satisfied they got their money's worth ... let's come back to that one.

It's safe to say the people yelling "Bull[expletive]! This is bull[expletive]!" didn't feel like their $45 was well spent. There were more than a handful of patrons shouting and cursing at the endlessly controversial, occasionally coherent 45-year-old rock trainwreck. Many more simply headed for the exits. Three-quarters-filled at the start, the club was no more than a quarter packed by the excruciating end. 

Make no mistake - this was an astonishingly awful performance that had few moments of redeeming musical value. Song titles, lyrics, guitar chords - Love remembered only some of them, and infrequently. Then again, what was really the best-case musical scenario? A competent recreation 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. And Sunday night was an experience like no other.

She took the stage nearly an hour past the advertised 9:30 start time, smoking a cigarette, rambling for a minute about how she was late because she had just been hanging out with a senator friend. (Leave your best guesses in the comments.) She also introduced an assistant, Lisa, who was on stage for the entire show filming Love on an iPhone. Not on the side of the stage. Not filming a few songs. The entire show, on stage, often directly in front of Love. Love, naturally, played to the camera more than her fans. She preened, she constantly sang in its direction, she looked like she was trying to seduce it. Love and Lisa huddled before, during and after songs, conferring about what angles to shoot, like they were Bogdanovich and Kovacs.  When one fan near the front complained that Lisa was being obstructive Love quickly snapped, "[Expletive] you, she's with me." She introduced "Someone Else's Bed" as a "deeply emotional song" and spent the first 30 seconds of it instructing Lisa where to situate herself to get the best angle of Love giving it her faux-heartfelt best. 

The between song chatter was more than just chatter. Ten minutes without playing a song? Sure, let's do that a few times. She talked about her courting style ("I never chase"), 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. She asked what the lamest Hole song was and cursed at people when they gave the wrong answer.

It's not as if disaster has been the norm on this tour. A Newark Star-Ledger review of Friday's show in Montclair, N.J., said: "Courtney Love didn't screw up any of her guitar parts. She didn't forget any of her choruses. She never lost her place in the set, or looked disoriented during a song. . . . Courtney Love exaggerates her filth." Her New York shows were succinct, hour-long affairs.

When Love got around to singing, her voice sounded as if something died in her throat earlier in the day. Love has a blood-curdling howl, by far her most effective asset as a performer. She just should have used it more on Sunday. During the choruses of "Miss World" and "Violet" - two of her best and most popular songs - she turned the microphone to the crowd and didn't even bother singing. Other times she skipped lines in order to cough, or take a sip of water or just ... not sing. Of the nearly 30 songs (or song fragments), not even a handful were completed without some minor disaster.

Love took a request for "Rock Star" despite admitting she didn't remember how to play it. She stumbled through half the song without strumming anything resembling one correct chord. (Why didn't she just Google the tablature on the iPhone?) She played a new song, "Pretty Your Whole Life." It was bad. Half an hour later she played it again. It was worse. 

Love eventually decided to have some of her fans join her on stage. She started plucking some from the crowd and they simply sat off to the side. "Do you really like rock music?" she asked one female. "Because you're African-American. That would be like me being into Lil Wayne." She wasn't joking. One fan came on stage with a poster and asked Love to sign it. "No socializing interaction! Go sit over there."  Before the encore another one of Love's handlers told the remaining faithful that they would have to be loud because there was someone who was waiting to have sex with Love and it would take lots of applause to get her to delay that appointment. Sure enough Love did re-emerge, this time wearing a skin-colored see-through top, sans bra. It would have been blurred out on TV, even on E!

She quickly became self-conscious and asked the audience for a bra, promising unlimited merchandise to whoever gave her one. One came flying onto the stage and Love removed her top to put it on. She did this at the back corner of the stage, so we could only see her bare back. She then repeatedly talked about how the bra was too big for her.

The encore contained a Rolling Stones cover (the second of the night), a Leonard Cohen cover ("Take This Longing") and the back-to-back of originals "Car Crash" and "Awful." Was this irony or were we well past that? Most of her backing band had retired for the night by this point leaving Love and guitarist Micko Larkin alone on stage. Then came a cover of Big Star's "Thirteen" that likely had Alex Chilton doing 360s in his grave. Before closer "Northern Lights" she ripped off the bra. Obviously. It's actually somewhat surprising she didn't play Nirvana's "Pennyroyal Tea" while completely topless.  "This is a really weird show," Love said in perhaps the understatement of the night a bit earlier. "I can't tell if it's really terrible."

Courtney, let me tell you something. In just the past year and a half, I've been to about 400 shows. I've seen some really terrible ones. And this was really the most terrible. No question. But the vast majority of those 400 shows, I went there, I saw it, and almost immediately forgot I was there. I'll never forget this night with Courtney Love, no matter how much I may want to. And isn't that really what she's always wanted?


Reader Comments:

Senator = Roland Burris
Post-show sex partner = Roland Burris (and/or Lisa)
Posted by: BabyStew | June 28, 2010 10:45 AM | 

This review was fantastic. Thank you. I can't believe Kurt Cobain was with this chick...
Posted by: steampunk | June 28, 2010 11:02 AM | 

That's not an IPhone, it's a Flip.  Her 15 minutes were over 15 years ago.
Posted by: ana1ana2 | June 28, 2010 11:18 AM | 

Rumor has it she was with Robert Byrd last night
Posted by: meeper_99 | June 28, 2010 11:21 AM | 

wow, that sounds amazing. I wish i was there.
Posted by: MarilynManson | June 28, 2010 11:22 AM | 
It was an iPhone.
Posted by: leafblower | June 28, 2010 11:23 AM | 

I mean did people really think that they were going to get a good show with this waste of a human being? You would've been better off going to a Tupac and Biggie concert.
Posted by: PublicEnemy1 | June 28, 2010 11:26 AM | 

Meanwhile, over in Columbia MD the greatest live band in the history of music was making thousands of people feel alive and in love with music.
Posted by: drinaldi | June 28, 2010 11:29 AM | 

This was without a doubt the most fun concert I have been to. Was it the most technically good? Heck No, but this was Courtney Love. I don't need to see a performer flawlessly run through a set list with a few sentences in between, I can listen to the album at home. The crazy anecdotes between songs were long rambling, and very interesting for fans. Stories about Kurt, Linda Perry, George Clooney, Corgan, Reznor might have been name dropping, but they were fun stories giving some interesting insight into Love's life. Train wreck? Sure. Did I get my money's worth? More than enough. After the late start I was worried my wife would want to leave early (she's a hole fan, but has an early morning job). After the first 30 minutes I asked her how late she was willing to stay out, and she replied "If it keeps going like this, I'll stay out all night".  There were indeed people booing, but they were the same people yelling "Play freebird" between songs, so I wrote them off. How is that joke still funny? If you came to Hole expecting the height of professionalism, you were disappointed. I came expecting some great music, with some interesting spectacle in between, and I rewarded greatly. The best show of the year for me, and probably the decade.
Posted by: mikes8 | June 28, 2010 11:34 AM | 

Dang. I know you said Lisa was right up in there, but.... That last photo shows she's....well, right up in there.
Posted by: PlanetFlorida | June 28, 2010 11:35 AM | 

I agree that it was Robert Byrd. Upon meeting her, he must have felt such great sorrow for the world that he no longer had the strength to be a part of it and departed for the great coal mogul's country club in the sky.
Posted by: MyPostID27 | June 28, 2010 11:47 AM | 

best review EVER!
Posted by: aka583 | June 28, 2010 11:56 AM | 

This was the worst concert I have ever been too. I admit I left early in disgust, but if it was a continuation of the first 3/4 of the show, it was excruciatingly painful to watch. Is is so wrong to expect a little bit of professionalism and a bit of good music for your money even if it is Courtney Love? I really like the new album, so I was so naively looking forward to it along with the old material I love as well. The chick with the camera filming her was so annoying I wanted to throw something at her, but that would be mean and illegal of course. I'm surprised it didnt' happen. I felt like I was in a basement watching Courtney babble and practice. The Senator reason for her being so late; I almost puked on that one after eating the 9:30 club Macho Nachos because I was waiting so long.
Posted by: atietze | June 28, 2010 11:57 AM | 

How sad. The only time I ever saw her was in the movie where she played Larry Flynt's drug-addicted wife, and she was powerfully great. I guess it wasn't too big a stretch for her.  Thanks for an excellent review of a memorable exhibition.
Posted by: pundito | June 28, 2010 12:08 PM | 

All of a sudden Yoko doesn't seem so bad...
Posted by: HughJassPhD | June 28, 2010 12:13 PM | 

who goes to a HOLE show expecting anything other than a train wreck?? she gave the people/tabloids/critics... exactly what she is famous for... i loved it..
Posted by: suicide_blond | June 28, 2010 12:16 PM | 

Your pain is our gain. Very amusing and candid review.
Posted by: mlc5556 | June 28, 2010 12:24 PM | 

Okay, sure I was a little frustrated by the wait too, but I agree with Mikes8 assessment. How can you be a true Hole fan or know anything about Courtney Love and expect anything different than what you got last night? She completely lived up to my expectations. I definitely got my money’s worth and believe it was a true one-of-a-kind show. I’m glad that I didn’t miss it. A little rough around the edges? Sure – but so what! At first I was a little disappointed by the lack of singing, but she got it together and provided some kick butt entertainment. She is who she is – bold, brash, impulsive, crude, and beautiful in her own way. I thought the concert was GREAT exactly because it was not so perfect.
Posted by: StephA1 | June 28, 2010 12:32 PM | 

I agree with the facts of the review, but not the expectations. I bought my ticket knowing this show could have been a train wreck. I was impressed Courtney Love's level of coherence (knowing it could have been close to zero). I thought it was a high energy and highly enjoyable show. I love that she brought fans on stage. The looks on their faces clearly showed they were having a fantastic time. David Malitz is correct that the show had its technical flaws, but I wasn't looking for a perfect performance, just an enjoyable one. I think Love gave it. I wouldn't attribute the disappearance of much of the crowd to the performance, but the hour. The show ended just after 1 a.m. That's pretty late for a lot of people who probably had to get to work early Monday morning.
Posted by: MathewF | June 28, 2010 12:43 PM | 

I had heard that Hole stunned the crowd by not sucking at SXSW, occasionally even rocking hard. Still, I expected very little - she would play some songs, a mix of old and new. Surely her voice wouldn't sound as good as it used to, or how it sounds after getting sweetened after multiple takes in the studio, but that's OK. I expected she would have a set list, or at least be able to quickly pick the next song to play. And that she would know most of the lyrics and chords to her own songs.

Expectations: not met. I finally left as she started introducing her last song. This review really captured the whole flavor of the evening: "trackwreck" ... Nicely done.  BTW, I believe her line was "no interaction" when a fan on-stage decided to ask for an autograph. I loved the jackasses on stage taking pictures and making crazy poses in the background of Love's personal video vamping, it would have been classless and inconsiderate if that hadn't been exactly the same way Courtney herself behaved all evening.

It was like, as she put it, "a practice session with a bunch of strangers in the room." Except it was supposed to be an actual, organized performance. The bull session she did instead was incredibly sloppy even we were, instead, just hanging with her while she noodled around.
Posted by: ddowhan | June 28, 2010 12:44 PM | 

And the white folks want to talk about and put their foot on Whitney Houston.  White America I hope your proud of your product of society. Drug out, looks like she carring multiple of diseases and best of all you were foolish enough to pay to see it.
Posted by: B4DarkDC | June 28, 2010 12:49 PM | 

You can find videos on the internet of people eating feces. They are not forced to do that. They like it. That's what they want. Going to a Love show is like eating feces for feces-eating people.
Posted by: garyr2 | June 28, 2010 12:50 PM | 

This article pretty much says it all. I left after Doll Parts, only because the rest of my party wanted to leave. I wish I had tomatoes with me. I also wish that someone from the crowd yelled something so offense that Courtney jumped in the crowd to beat them up. That would have made for a great show.
Posted by: Applesauce20011 | June 28, 2010 12:51 PM | 

>>BTW, I believe her line was "no interaction" when a fan on-stage decided to ask for an autograph.

Yes, that was it! Thank you, ddowhan. Couldn't read the chicken scratch on my notepad. One of many moments that cracked me up...
Posted by: DavidMalitz | June 28, 2010 12:57 PM | 

I couldn't have written the review any better myself. My feelings are mixed. The one thing that was missing from the review is how amazing their opener, Foxy Shazam, was. They put on a hell of a show! VERY fun and entertaining (eating lit cigarettes, jumping on keyboards and breaking one over the Freddie Mercury-esque singer's face all while belting out amazing vocals).  I will say that people who left before the second half of Hole's set missed out. She did seem to pull herself together the later the night went on and really screamed her guts out for us who sat through the slow motion train wreck performance.
Posted by: shawful | June 28, 2010 1:02 PM | 

She was more or less acting like a poor man's Kathy Griffith. She said that her "gays" are real and Kathy's are fake. Not to mention all the name dropping. And that awful cover of "Closer" by NIN.
Posted by: Applesauce20011 | June 28, 2010 1:10 PM | 

Courtney should have given it up after she ran out of songs Kurt Cobain wrote for Hole. Which was about 15 years ago. The Whitney comparisons are not apt, everyone knew Courtney was a drug addled piece of garbage from day 1, too bad KC was such a weak MF that he couldn't tell her to hit the highway. Only thing Courtney is good for is Foo Fighter hate-song fodder.
Posted by: dgb100 | June 28, 2010 1:27 PM | 

That's Kathy Griffin, not Griffith. My apologies to Ms. Griffin, who I wish would have performed last night rather than Ms. Love.
Posted by: Applesauce20011 | June 28, 2010 1:30 PM | 

That is so sad. Got to see her when she played in NYC. It was an amazing show...really pulled together. Glad I skipped the show last night.
Posted by: jayfred | June 28, 2010 1:32 PM | 

I held on until "Sunset Marquis" (and glad I did b/c if I'd stayed for her covering Big Star, I probably would have cried over her mangling of such a great band's work). But does anyone recall the song one or two before it? It was actually pretty and one of the few I recall her being able to complete start to finish.
Posted by: ericalbruce | June 28, 2010 1:35 PM | 

Sounds like people got what they paid for. If you like those kind of carrying on and self-obsessed antics which Love has always been about and think that that's rock and roll then you were probably satisfied. If you're silly enough to waste $45 thinking you were going to go to a well-played and professional show I guess you got what was coming to you. It ain't the Opera here.
Posted by: nvamikeyo | June 28, 2010 1:36 PM | 

Um, B4DarkDC?? I've re-posted your incoherent statement, spelled correctly. Geezus, don't rant about white people while making your own race look completely ILLITERATE!!

"And the white folks want to talk about and put their foot on Whitney Houston.  White America, I hope YOU'RE proud of your product of society. DRUGGED out, looks like she's carrying multiple diseases, and best of all, you were foolish enough to pay to see it."
Posted by: sigmagrrl | June 28, 2010 1:37 PM | 
I'm surprised no one has mentioned the rest of the band -- I kept looking at the drummer who seemed LIVID most of the time. He kept making these "eh, whatever" faces to the bass player before they both walked off.  I was pretty disappointed by the show. I had seen Hole back in 93 or 94 and it was one of the best shows ever. When she could rock she really brought the house down. Now she looks like a clown and acts like an aging star... I've lost interest!
Posted by: savorypork | June 28, 2010 1:43 PM |


Courtney Love Gives The Worst Concert Of Her Notorious Bad-Concert-Giving Career
(By Brian Moylan, website, June 2010)

Courtney Love has made a late career out of being an incoherent mess, but it sounds like she turned up the crazy to 11 at a concert she gave last night in Washington D.C. Damn, I wish I was there.  When I saw Courtney Love—now touring under the name Hole even though she's the only member of the band on stage during the shows—a couple of months ago in New York, she did a brisk 45 minute set that included two Rolling Stones covers, a handful of new songs, and all of her hits. She didn't sound especially great and she didn't even talk in between songs. Part of the reason you pay good money to see Courtney is to watch her slowly unravel in public, and we didn't get any of it.

According to the Washington Post's David Malitz, Love spent three hours yammering through a set list with her assistant Lisa filming the entire performance on an iPhone, oftentimes standing directly in front of the star. You really should read his dreadfully entertaining account of the dreadful show, but here is a good summary: 

“The between song chatter was more than just chatter. Ten minutes without playing a song? Sure, let's do that a few times. She talked about her courting style ("I never chase"), 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. She asked what the lamest Hole song was and cursed at people when they gave the wrong answer.”

Apparently most of the audience left the 9:30 Club, where the concert was held (and where I worked for many years) before the show ended, but for those who paid the money to watch one of Courtney Love's infamous rambles happen in real time, they stayed until the end. Here's what a friend of mine said about the show:

“She rambled on between songs, took requests, invited audience members up on stage, borrowed a bra, said she would give someone her $200 moist panties after the show, was confused by the set list and wouldn't answer the question about whether or not Clooney is gay. Pacific Coast Highway sounded good, but she butchered Malibu. It was awesome!”  Yes, it sounds like a slow form of torture, but I really wish I was there.

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