Singing in tune all the time is overrated – especially when you’re a rock star like Courtney Love.
When you have the charisma, the stage presence, and, most importantly, the wild volatility that Love has, the singing is almost beside the point. Almost.
Love’s show with the new version of Hole at Terminal 5 last night was, generally, thrilling, as she ripped through songs from her new “Nobody’s Daughter” album and Hole’s grunge-era anthems. (Hole returns to Terminal 5 again tonight.)
Though Love’s new songs fared well, especially the stomping single “Skinny Little Bitch” and the set-closing rant “Samantha,” her demeanor was even more noteworthy. For her short, but potent, 45-minute set, Love was all business, holding back on the rambling introductions and unpredictable monologues that became her trademark.
Even her stage stance was different. Instead of militantly straddling the monitor, as she has for years, Love did little more than tap her toes in her white high heels, even in the raucous “Violet,” which turned into a memorable scream-along with the capacity crowd matching the band’s roar with shouts of “Go on take everything! Take everything! I want you to!”
In a way, that rage has given way to a bit more desperation through the years, and Love’s delivery has gone from shrieks to something more controlled. The new “Letter to God” sounded more like a Marlene Dietrich torch song than her wailing hits, adapting to Love’s more limited vocals these days. But Love still pulled it off.
Her only stumbles came when she tried to sing outside her comfort zone, in “Somebody Else’s Bed” and the acoustic “Northern Star,” where she struggled to hit notes and flew wildly off key. Those raw moments only served to make Love more endearing to her fans – as do verbal attacks on her, like those launched by Billy Corgan yesterday.
Sure, she could have hidden those shortcomings. She could have added a bank of backing singers to bolster the vocals. But Love opted to remain the open book she has always been and it worked.
The openers, Brooklyn’s The Love Loves and Brits Little Fish, showed Love’s influence on new generations of rockers, both male and female, in both sound and fury.
And now, after the rehab and the family struggles, Love sees little need to worry about a few bum notes. She offers way more to compensate for it, including her iconic rock diva attitude.
“That is so not enough love,” she said, before launching into the lovely “Malibu.” “Come on, give me some more.”
Of course, the crowd obliged. What Courtney wants, she still eventually gets.
SETLIST: Pretty on the Inside/Sympathy for the Devil / Skinny Little Bitch / Miss World / Violet / Letter to God / Pacific Coast Highway / Someone Else’s Bed / Malibu / Celebrity Skin / Samantha // ENCORE: Play With Fire / Doll Parts / Northern Star
PHOTO: Courtney Love live in L.A. by Brian van der Brug for McClatchy-Tribune.