Love Unearths Punk Roots

Courtney revels in punk, drama at California show

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Never one to be a wallflower, Courtney Love embarked on the first phase of her solo career on October 26th, embracing punk and taking swings at all those who have offended her along the way.

An hour up Highway 101 from Hollywood, in the coastal town of Ventura, California, Love debuted the new punk-inspired material of her on-and-off band Bastard, and took swipes at rock's royalty, backed by her almost all-male band, which included former Redd Kross guitarist Steve McDonald and Hole drummer Patty Shemel.

"Whatever happened to ashtrays?" Love queried as she sauntered across stage, barefoot and puffing a token cigarette. Long gone were the thrift-store baby-doll dresses and tiaras of her early Hole days as Love continued her current trend for higher fashion, clothed in a cream colored, belly-baring haute-couture top paired with hipster jeans and a brown belt.

Thanks to the last minute announcement of the gig, Love and her band launched into their new song "All the Drugs" to a less than capacity crowd of only a few hundred. Gone -- apparent from the first few bars -- were the polished pop sounds of Celebrity Skin, replaced instead by a boisterous, tendency toward some rather sloppy, or perhaps just under-rehearsed punk. She tossed her guitar, stormed across stage, borrowed Stevie Nicks' hand gesture artistry and bantered through extended versions of songs, with every bit of drama she's famous for.

Love's lesson in punk-ography continued through other new songs like "Drag" and "But Julian I'm a Little Older Than You," a track Love announced was written just last week. Marked by the ruggedness of a tune bearing little signs of rehearsal, "Julian" suggested sounds made famous by the Ramones and more recently, New York newcomers, the Strokes, for whose lead singer, Julian Casablancas, the song was allegedly written.

Once the group settled into Hole's "Malibu," the raves of the audience, who seemed relieved to hear the familiar track, gave way to the opening of Love's verbal floodgates. Limp Bizkit main man Fred Durst was singled out, as Love announced she was back and angry. "I'm going to fucking kick him out of your ass!" she announced. "I'm so fucking sick of him playing golf with all the fucking [record] executives. We're going to show him what Sixties punk rock is," Love said as they debuted more new material, including "Twenty Years in the Dakota," and "Left in the Dark." Lesser stabs were dished out at Trent Reznor, Marilyn Manson and Dave Grohl.

Despite the familiar Hole material in the twelve-song set, a portion of the Ventura audience, tired of languishing through Love's lengthy between-song banter, Courtney-isms ("I don't think rock stars can be Scientologists") and drawn out, sometimes messy versions of tunes, left the venue before the nearly two-hour show ended. But Love certainly didn't seem to mind or even notice. With a core group of fans at the front, she relished in the intimacy . . . and the drama.