Chain-smoking and sporting a pack of burly security guards, a dangerously skinny Courtney Love took the stage at New York's Hiro Ballroom last night at midnight for an hour and a half gig sponsored by Rolling Stone during which she showcased material from her upcoming Nobody's Daughter and played a few classics, including "Malibu," "Celebrity Skin" and "Doll Parts" and "Northern Star." Love mumbled candidly to the crowd in between new tracks, which were mostly mid-tempo and based around strummed acoustic guitar, comparing one fresh song to Lynyrd Skynyrd and another to Bon Jovi. When she wasn't telling her band she was going to "fuck up another song," she was shushing the crowd so she could tune her guitar, rambling about her "eating disorder," complaining that feedback from the bass amp was making "fart sounds," announcing that she'd worked with Linda Perry, dedicating songs to good pals in the audience (which was filled with hipsters, curiosity seekers, die-hard fans and old-school New York scenesters) and adjusting her outfit, which she described as a "onesie."
Love's always raspy voice sounded even more distressed, as though she'd rubbed her vocal cords on a chainsaw shortly before taking the stage, and she screamed out melodies, skipping the higher notes while her young band struggled to keep up with her. The crowd, which began lining up outside the venue hours earlier, thinned as the night dragged on, perhaps because Love warned everyone she wouldn't be playing too many "oldies" ("so don't get your hopes up"). She focused instead on fresh work like "Pacific Coast Highway," "Samantha," "Dirty Girls" and "Stand Up Motherfucker," returning for a short encore during which she performed the emotional "Never Go Hungry Again" alone. There were none of the usual Courtney fireworks -- nobody got smacked with a mic stand or chastised by the notoriously cantankerous singer -- but when she broke out in the chorus of "Miss World" earlier in the night, there were flashes of the old, defiant, electric Love as she shrieked, "I made my bed, I'll die in it."