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Courtney Love | Shepherds Bush Empire London | Gig Review - Live And Die In Music

If Courtney Love isolated herself in the mountains and cut off her wifi connection, controversy could still find her somehow. 2014 has already kicked off as another part in the Courtney Love melodrama. April of this year marked the 20th anniversary of Kurt Cobain’s death. On April 10th, Nirvana were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame, a night which brought ex band members and family together for a rare and special occasion. Anyone who watched clips online witnessed the chilly reception Courtney received from Nirvana devotees in the crowd. It didn’t end there, a note was later released from the Seattle Police Department allegedly written by Kurt Cobain calling her a “bitch with zits”; a note Courtney later admitted to writing herself. Sadly Courtney’s musical efforts have been overshadowed by the circus of media controversy, internet disputes, lawsuits and the monster of celebrity.

Courtney controversially recruited new band members under the moniker of “Hole” and released “Nobody’s Daughter” in 2010 which led to a dispute with original Hole lead guitarist Eric Erlandson, a partner in crime since the beginning of her musical career. The album was high anticipated from fans as her previous solo effort “America’s Sweetheart” of 2004 was a commercial and critical disaster. Hole’s 1998 album “Celebrity Skin” demonstrated Courtney’s more pop and soft rock side, a departure from her dirtier punk/grunge roots.

The album however, found on various “must listen to” lists and is itself a piece of cult history from the 1990s, is the seminal album “Live Through This” from 1995, which solidified Courtney’s place in rock history and elevated her to status as a heroine to every misunderstood teenage girl of the indie rock persuasion. Many argue Courtney Love is as good as who she collaborates with, which has included names such as Billy Corgan of The Smashing Pumpkins and Linda Perry. However, her lyrical prowess is evident since Hole’s 1991 pre-Kurtney release produced by Kim Gordon “Pretty On The Inside”. The album spawned the infamous anthem “Teenage Whore” which is by no means reflective of her complex imagery and poetic prowess evident on the rest of the album. Along with her guttural screams and outrageous on stage antics, Courtney is revered among fans for being a fierce lyrical talent and her songs are laden with powerful imagery about femininity, desperation, addiction and sexuality. Her rage from a female perspective struck a chord with audiences of the grunge era and was a refreshing departure from the male dominated mainstream of Pearl Jams and Soundgardens. Courtney came at the right time.

Flash forward to 2014 and Courtney has survived her personal struggles, she is now 49 years old and ready to be reborn again. This year saw her release another solo effort.

Recently she showcased the double A-side You Know My Name/Wedding Day. The tracks contain all we love about Courtney. You Know My Name is a call to battle. Courtney is back and she isn’t retiring. The playfully titled “Wedding Day” was inspired by being dumped and Courtney snarls:

“break my neck on my Wedding Day/here come’s the bride and she’s covered in egg”.

In May 2014, Courtney kicked off a UK tour armed with some new tracks and a new lease of life. I made my way over, being there was no Dublin date announced and I vowed to not miss my chance again. Before she made her way on stage, an impatient crowd chanted “Courtney”. A dramatic instrumental intro with spotlights ensued and after a second “try”, Ms. Love emerged wearing a stunning vintage caftan and a flower in her hair. She opens with Wedding Day to the delight of the London crowd.
What struck a chord with me and others during her triumphant return to the rock stage is that she was genuinely enjoying her performance. The crowd were captivated as she howled the hits from her impressive and varied discography. Treats included ferocious performances of hits such as “Miss World”, “Doll Parts” and “Celebrity Skin”. She threw red roses to the crowd, a feeding frenzy followed and I myself managed to catch a measly petal. A home made t-shirt is thrown at Courtney and she playfully banters with the crowd. She recognises a fan from her YouTube vlog and everyone feels involved in the event. Despite her intimidating and controversial persona, Love is not adverse to connecting intimately with her fans and Shepherd’s Bush is not any different.

Part rock show, part fashion show, we are treated to a few costume changes and eventually Courtney is stripped of her flower and is dressed down to a black slip, reminiscent of her 90s hey day. The setlist is classic after classic and the crowds sings along with heroic vigour. She covers Fleetwood Mac’s “Gold Dust Woman” and an encore of down tempo Hole tracks “Dying” and “Northern Star” are performed. Courtney has admitted her technical playing has suffered due to her addictions as well as her vocal abilities. However tonight, she is fully back on form and her vocals are the best they’ve been in years. By all accounts at 49, she looks and sounds incredible.

The atmosphere is electric. It would be a betrayal to everything she has built for Courtney Love to grow old gracefully and this crowd wouldn’t want that. They came to see Courtney Love and they got the best Courtney Love could deliver at this juncture of her career. The show is closed with the firecracker track off “Live Through This”, “Jennifer’s Body”. On the night before, she greeted fans outside the venue and a few of us gathered outside afterwards, we assumed the rain put her off and she never emerged. Despite that disappointment, she delivered what she promised and we can expect much more from Courtney Love in the future. Hers is a story that isn’t over yet.

Courtney Love
Shepherd’s Bush Empire