Courtney Love conquers Perth

Courtney Love
Metro City
Wednesday, August 13
4 stars

Courtney Love appeared bemused by the slight crowd gathered on Wednesday night at Metro City to watch the former poster girl of grunge culture rock out.

Now 50, Love says she has finally cleaned up her act.

Gone, it would appear, is the tabloid train-wreck who would stage-dive sans underwear, flash her fake boobs, climb the rafters, forget lyrics and go off on bizarre tangents.

Ignoring the on-stage smoking and mid-set tequila shot, Love almost surreally came across as a cleaned-up, professional musician finally living up to expectations created by her band Hole's mainstream hit album Celebrity Skin in 1998.

Given she performed to a fist-pumping crowd of around 20,000 last time Hole were in Perth to headline the 1999 Big Day Out at Bassendean Oval, you could forgive Love for being disappointed by the turnout at the first show of her debut solo Australian tour.

The upstairs area was roped off and the mosh-pit so sparse it would have been dangerous should Love have even wanted to jump in.

Fifteen years ago, Love might have refused to play, or given a half-hearted performance. But those who decided to come out and revisit some classic 90s rock were in for a real treat as Love and her new touring band delivered a polished, high- energy arena rock show that ticked all the boxes.

"If you don't make any more noise, I am not going to change into my nice dress for the encore," Love told the small but dedicated crowd, who went wild when she returned barefoot in said dress for an emotional acoustic performance of Northern Star.

Given the quality of her performance it was a little depressing to see the singer almost beg the crowd for the response she would have been used to when Hole was one of the biggest female-led bands in the 90s.

Love asked for screams, not for her ego but to give her guitarist the drive to keep going after he got sick flying "36 hours in coach (economy)".

Opening with Wedding Day, one of two new tracks, the 90-minute-set was dominated by Hole's two groundbreaking albums, Celebrity Skin and 1994's Live Through This, released just days after Love's husband Kurt Cobain committed suicide.

Love hit her stride midway with Hole's biggest hit Malibu, even though it lacked the sweet harmonies provided by former bassist Melissa Auf der Maur.

"I used to take my shirt off during this next song but now I'm too old . . . I only do it so you'll buy a T-shirt," she exclaimed before belting out Rock Star (aka Olympia), her voice sounding stronger and more self-assured than it did in her heyday.

The encore was a subtle musical tribute to her late husband, whom many have speculated provided much of the inspiration for Live Through This.

An emotional rendition of 1998's Dying tried to put the Nirvana's frontman's death into perspective while closer Doll Parts, sounding just as raw and powerful 20 years later, recalled Love's romantic insecurity after meeting Cobain in 1991.

"Someday you will ache like I ache," Love belted in unison with the predominantly female crowd who appeared to be revelling in connecting with their inner teen angst once more.

The West Australian

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