Live: Courtney Love Has All Eyes on Her at Hiro Ballroom


Courtney Love
Hiro Ballroom, Maritime Hotel
Tuesday, September 6

Better than: Listening to Celebrity Skin alone in your bedroom again.

“I need a glass of wine,” Courtney Love announced as she took the stage, twirling a big paper parasol through the air around her. “I need wine. Right now.”

The Hole founder, widow, mother, and world’s most famous alumna of the Nelson, New Zealand, College for Girls wore knee socks, black patent leather flats, something that was either a lacy girdle or an unusually sexy skort, a cream silk faux-wrap blouse that often fell open to reveal a black bra, and a black vest. Her silver-toned bracelet and rings glinted in the flashbulbs that seasoned the air; there was a phalanx of photographers in the front row, and it seemed nearly every other attendee wielded a camera phone. Because how Courtney Love looks is kind of part of it, because even for former addicts, the effects of the disease are written on the body, because she is a woman, and we evaluate women on their physical appearance constantly and regardless of professional competence, because this woman in particular had been enlisted for this party as much to be seen playing as to play–so that the right sort of people might spend Fashion Week telling each other, “I saw Courtney Love at that thing”–I will say that Courtney Love, for what it’s worth, looked good. Quite good. Clear skin. Definitive proof that no matter what the women’s magazines say, cellulite is genetic. She plucked at the vest. “I’m wearing the first piece of swag I ever got,” she said. “Calvin Klein, 1990. It still fits.”

Maybe something about the period jogged her mind. “Shall we do an old one?” she asked. The crowd–fashion industry folks who’d donned their six-inch heels and designer leather to come, at no monetary cost to themselves, to see Courtney Love play at a modeling agency’s birthday party, Brought To You By DeLeon Tequila–didn’t exactly “roar,” or “scream,” or “go wild.” They were too cool for that. They instead verbalized a kind of assent. “You fucking ’90s revivalists,” Love spat into the mic. And then she played the first chords of “Violet.”

These days, maybe your best chance of seeing Courtney Love perform is during one Fashion Week or another. Brands treat the singer as a kind of human jukebox, ready to belt out covers of the Stones or Lady Gaga on command in her tremendous hacksaw of a voice; reporters on the coke-and-champagne beat cherish her because she will say anything. (Last night, she did none of the Lady but two of the Stones: “Sympathy for the Devil” and “Under My Thumb,” which she introduced as “the most sexist song; it’s so funny.”) Out of the deal, Love gets a large audience, if a borrowed one, containing a few Eastern European teenagers who were in diapers when Celebrity Skin came out. (At the back of the stage, a tall girl with long, dark hair spent the show chewing gum and texting.) But Love seems nonetheless to enjoy the attention–and, no doubt, the appearance fees. She made it clear that she’s a team player. Love thanked the head of the modeling agency, a short man named Scott Lipps; she thanked the promoter (and the man who she seemed to believe was responsible for getting her more red wine), Nur Khan; she thanked the tequila company. She also discussed a particularly touching interview she’d read with Reba McEntire, called her daughter Frances Bean “fucking beautiful,” and claimed she wouldn’t play both “Violet” and “Miss World,” we had to pick. But then she played them both anyway.

“And to think you could have had Mötley Crüe,” she joked. (Vince Neil had originally been scheduled to headline the party.) Love closed with “Northern Star” and then said, “You know, for really big modeling contracts, come to me.” Before the last note had even really faded, she was gone.

Critical bias: I still hold out hope that Eric Erlandson and Courtney Love might one day be able to be in the same room together.

Random notebook dump: Oh, and Adrian Grenier was there.

Set list:
Sympathy for the Devil
Skinny Little Bitch
Celebrity Skin
For Once In Your Life
Under My Thumb
Never Go Hungry Again
Miss World
Northern Star