Fronting bass, drums, and lead guitar with her own guitar in her hands and one leg hoisted onto a monitor speaker, Courtney Love has a number she runs on the crowd between songs: a lot of casual-sounding talk about what she dislikes about the site of a given show, former sex partners (especially whoever might be present), a fair amount of undifferentiated loathing, and a few well-placed invocations of Kurt Cobain (“I wrote this with my husband”; “Will you just come back, dick-head!”). It’s a punk version, or her version, of “HELLO, SAN FRANCISCO!”—Which you usually hear bellowed out at the Oakland Coliseum. But as a standard routine her words come off as detritus she happened to find onstage, and the fact that her music has the same offhand, let’s-get-it-over-with quality produces a strange effect. There are no divisions between patter and song, and rather than everything communicating like performance, nothing does. The shifts between talk and music, shifts that given the band’s precision timing you don’t have to notice, merely take a conversation to another level; the burr in Love’s voice is the same whether she’s insulting someone, negotiating the careful steps of her time-stopping “Asking for It,” or tossing off half of “Hungry like the Wolf.” The result reminded me more than anything of a recent all-acoustic, sit-down, no-smoking, mother-in-the-audience concert by Iris DeMent, baring her soul and everyone else’s with her “No Time to Cry,” reinventing country music by treating it like ordinary speech—except that Love was more believable.
Artforum, January 1995