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Night one of Courtney Love’s tour of redemption at New York’s Terminal 5 was a study in stark contrasts. It was, after all, not terribly long ago that the titanically mercurial singer was living in supposed squalor in hip, boutique hotels in Manhattan, and palling around with music scenesters. Struggles for sanity, sobriety, and financial solvency well documented and tweeted. Her face, well edited.

To see Love take the stage Tuesday night with the current incarnation of Hole to the roar of appreciative diehards and lookalikes in attendance was a significant moment, to be sure. The contrast was likely not lost on the obsessively self-aware controversy magnet. This is the type of turnaround largely reserved for Britney Spears. And even then, underneath it all, who knows exactly what has been tinkered with to right the course of such famously listing ships.

All of which is why the nearly hour-long performance that transpired felt so sedate and surprisingly mature. Gone are the days of her taunting and baiting crowds. She leaves that to Twitter and Facebook now. No, the Courtney Love who stood straight and tall last night kept the chatterboxing down and the focus high. Aside from calling the sold-out crowd “little f*ckers” several times, and admitting that we’d all just have to “deal with” the new songs from Nobody’s Daughter (also released just yesterday in the U.S.), antics were nil. Trainwreckspotting rendered moot.

Opening with a chunky cover of the Rolling Stones’ “Sympathy for the Devil,” Love, her raspy caterwaul and her backing band of eager young men, kept the car on the road and in the correct lane, hammering out no-nonsense outings of current hit single “Skinny Little Bitch,” and chill-inducing takes of patented, potent-as-ever Hole classics “Miss World” and “Violet.” She always dared us. We were warned from the outset, weren’t we?

The Linda Perry-penned “Letter to God,” easily one of the most noteworthy moments on Daughter if not for its austere, almost cringe-worthy vulnerability, was a poignant reminder of the many lives and shades and shames of what it means to be Courtney Love, and who this resolutely calm woman on stage might be. Indeed, she is, dare I say, maturing into a type of Marianne Faithfull-esque elder stateswoman, and perhaps it was no coincidence that Debbie Harry, another influential, quirky blonde, was seated at the very first table in the VIP section with other Love compatriots.

Other Daughter tracks “Pacific Coast Highway,” “Someone Else’s Bed,” and “Samantha” were delivered with a defiant charm, casting Love as the queen of the walk of shame, asking “Are you down to your bones?” but also reminding, “I never said that I would die for you.” So perhaps she has rethought the sentiments of “Asking for It” from the incomparable, ineffable Live Through This. Or maybe she’s just not as desperate to drag someone else down to the bottom with her in her bid for survival. Nah. Not our girl.

Choice cuts from 1998’s shiny Celebrity Skin, “Malibu” (introduced by Love as, “a town that gave me the key to the city,”) and the album’s fiery, vibrant title track (the absence of Melissa Auf der Maur was exceedingly palpable here), with the classic Love kiss off, “You want a part of me? Well I’m not selling cheap. No, I’m not selling cheap,” were rowdy and genuinely playful.

A respectable cover of “Play with Fire,” the second Stones cover of the evening, along with a full-bodied “Doll Parts” made it clear that although Love isn’t a great pretender, whoever was on stage last night in her skin was glowing with gratitude at the sweat-soaked welcome she received at her feet. A disappointingly short set brought on the usual complaints, while others trying to find their way out of the cavernous nightmare of Terminal 5 found it to be a “game changer.”

But perhaps it was the heart-rending outing of Skin’s harrowing highpoint “Northern Star” that was a satisfying conclusion and parting shot of Courtney Love’s Hole in 2010: imperfect voice, diminished stamina, but in the end, Love is a mighty power, and to see her on her best behavior, no matter how much the restraint must be killing her, makes the word “legitimacy” much easier to tongue. –Carrie Alison, Photo of Love at SXSW by Eileen Murphy

 
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  2. Were we at the same performance?

    Ah, more adjective-heavy rock prose that goes nowhere.

    The performance was dull and mediocre. The classics were standardized to the point of being mechanical.

    Malibu was introduced as being about the city that wouldn’t give her the key.

    Courtney barely moved at all the entire time. She could’ve been a robot. There was little to no emotion that she was showing just a couple years ago.

    Her band, hired hacks, did nothing to compliment the name of the band that she and Eric Erlandson created in the late 1980′s. Courtney and crew had $$$ written all over them. It’s unfortunate that she still feels music is where her alleged talents should be put to use.

    Even as I tried to dance along last night there was just nothing in the music that could compel my body to move.

    Northern Star is a personal favorite of mine but even that couldn’t save the show for me. I also admire your choice of words, “nearly an hour” when the fact is, for that ticket price, fans should have gotten AT LEAST an hour.

    If that’s how Courtney cuts loose live now, I can only imagine how tediously boring the rehearsals for these shows have been.

    She couldn’t even stop and say hello for the ten people that waited outside the venue for her after the show. Yeah. A sold-out performance and only ten people cared to try to thank her for her time. But she had no interest in receiving the good graces of people fattening her wallet.

    Define “legitimate” for me in a way that applies to Courtney Love.

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    Zabatay Reply:

    @WENT TO SEE THE TRAINWRECK The legitimate looking bank notes allowed the family safe passage into Spain from Sudan. They honestly saved them certain hot-dog on Coney Island doom.

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  3. Wow, this is so disappointing to hear! And to think, I was going to go to that show, 3 1/2 hours away from CT, to watch her play for not even an hour? That is not right. I am soo glad I didn’t go now! And whats even more weird- that was the night Nobodys Daughter was released. You’d think she would have been wayyyy more energetic and fun…I know what you mean about the whole robot thing. I just saw her play on The View today and she hardly moved, not to mention she wore a dudes shirt that didn’t compliment her what so ever. Maybe it has something to do with this crap that’s going on with Billy Corgan. He said some really mean things about her, and it looks like it must be effecting her a lot… I feel really bad for her, she should be so happy right now because the new record is out and she just doesn’t seem it. Idk. I don’t mean to sound like I don’t like her, because I do, very much so. I love Courtney. I am going to the Mass show at the house of blues in June, and I just really hope things are a little different by then. Because I paid $200 for tickets that better be worth it, and that show BETTER not be an hour long!

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  4. I went to the hole concert and was not happy with my experience. The atmosphere was not what I expected. I have been wanting to see courtney love since I was 11 years old and never thought that I would get that experince… I eneded being thrown out of the concert for danceing, to me courtney stands for the rock and roll spirit which I did not feel there.. I am going to see her in boston with high hopesm of a different experience.

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    zabatay Reply:

    @Bobbie-Jean Wait. Terminal 5 doesn’t have a cabaret license anymore? Was no-one dancing?

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