Courtney Love - O2 Academy, Glasgow, Thu 15 May 2014
The Hole frontwoman is captivating and packs a roar that’s more impressive now than it ever was
They say that absence makes the heart grow fonder, which might explain the ‘cult of personality’ surrounding Courtney Love’s presence tonight, despite her not having toured here since Inception memes were a thing. But with the release of a new single and rumours of a Hole reunion floating around, there’s an atmosphere that suggests that should she ever decide to invade, say, North Korea she’d have sufficient ground support to give it a good stab. Her fans' devotion to her is nothing short of rabid, so when she strides onstage, e-cigarette in hand, the reaction is Beatles-worthy.
While billed as a solo show, tonight’s set largely consists of Hole material, though the few solo offerings, like new single (and opener) ‘Wedding Day’, sit well with the 90s pop-grunge template, punchily arrogant and well-matched to Love’s raspy drawl. Backed by a top-notch band that includes The Wildhearts’ Ginger on guitar, ‘Olympia’ sounds every bit the boisterous anti-punk anthem while early highlight ‘Malibu’ evokes hazy memories of bittersweet summers that lay well before the time of most of the crowd. It might be a nostalgia trip but it sounds timeless and infectious, 75 minutes of three-chord finery and mass pogoing.
As for Love herself, she proves a strange dichotomy. Her voice sounds as though she’s been smoking twenty a day while gargling a mix of bathtub vodka and volcanic rock, she seems dazed and confused between songs, obviously happy to be where she is but not 100% sure where that is, yet these things seem inconsequential when she’s performing. She’s engaging, she dominates the stage with unfiltered rockstar arrogance and damned if that voice doesn’t make ‘Violet’ sound even more furious, more indescribably defiant. When a tiara is thrown onto the stage, she pops it on her head and the band storm into ‘Celebrity Skin’, possibly the most perfect moment of the night for timing and quality of execution.
Given the material, perhaps calling this a solo tour might be stretching it, and Love is obviously no longer the grunge poster girl of twenty years ago, but she’s become something far more important – an icon, a figure of hate and reactionary bravado, and an impressive performer to boot. She sneers 'You would be oh so dumb to fuck with me' like a car-park brawler and delivers ‘Letter To God’ in the guise of a wounded and insecure creature. Even the slightly ridiculous encore, Love emerging in a negligee and tossing roses out to the crowd, has an air of bizarre sincerity, and for all the off-kilter choruses and rambling interludes, she’s captivating and packs a roar that’s more impressive now than it ever was. She’s Courtney Love, damn it, loathed and loved and tonight she fired it right back at the crowd with raised middle fingers and blown kisses.