Courtney Love is back with a vengeance

Fri Apr 2, 2010 8:22pm EDT
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By Cortney Harding

NEW YORK (Billboard) - You don't get an interview with Courtney Love; you get an audience with her.

In six hours at the Driskill Hotel in Austin, Texas, the day after two well-received, return-to-form performances at the South by Southwest music conference (SXSW), she will do the following: show off all her clothes; explain her new style, which she calls "kook"; display financial documents on her battered laptop which, she says, prove she's a victim of embezzlement; Google her new crush's ex-girlfriend; learn two Big Star songs; and yell at various people about various things. She will talk. She will smoke. On two occasions, she will smoke, talk and pee with the bathroom door open, all at once.

Leaving her room, you feel like you've just run a marathon -- you are tired, out of breath, and you smell bad.

But there's also the feeling that you've witnessed the rock star in her natural habitat -- perched atop a filthy bed in a trashed hotel room, she commands attention. In a musical landscape populated with faceless hard rock bands, bad emo hair and aw-shucks indie rockers who look just like the kids who serve you coffee in the morning, she's like nothing else. Seeing her out of her element would be as jarring as catching Lady Gaga in khakis and a button-down.

There was a freak-show element to the three gigs Hole played at SXSW. People were curious about the new songs, sure, but they were mostly curious about her. Would she stay upright for the entire set? Could she still sing?

The answers are yes (unless she was crowd surfing) and yes (insofar as she could ever "sing"). She played grunge favorites and a number of songs from her new album, "Nobody's Daughter," which Mercury will release April 27. Critical reaction was strong, and massive crowds attended all three of the shows she eventually played.

Courtney Love is back and in fighting shape. But can she overcome a long absence, a celebrity that threatens to overshadow her music and a radically changed music scene?