Courtney Love/White Miles – O2 Academy, Leeds, 16th May 2014 1

Courtney Love/White Miles – O2 Academy, Leeds, 16th May 2014

It has been quite a week for White Miles. In the past few days alone the Austrian powerhouse duo have unveiled their début album, job: genius, diagnose: madness and also set out on a UK tour supporting no less than Courtney Love. Any pressure this may have applied to Medina Rokic and Lofi is not apparent as she pirouettes madly around the Academy stage, cranking relentless blues riffs out of her guitar, and he pulverises the living daylights out017a of his drum kit.

With its crashing rhythm and contagious refrain, ‘Can’t Stop’ repeats its trick of managing to burrow deep inside your head and staying there for days afterwards. “Kiss my ass sweet sugar honey” invites Medina, as she spits out the chorus to ‘Feinripp’, and who would we be to argue. And the concluding ‘Into Your Spell’ captures what is surely the pure essence of White Miles, a vigorous, virulent and undeniably vital take on hard-driving, no-frills blues-rock.

The lines between what is the car crash of Courtney Love’s public persona and her life as a musician and performer have always been blurred. This, after all, is one of the most controversial and divisive figures in rock music history; the woman who has worked as a stripper, been homeless, done jail time for shoplifting, spent various periods in rehab and who, as recently as last month, believed she had located the missing flight MH370. She is also still blamed by many for the death by suicide of her husband Kurt Cobain twenty years ago. Vilified and lauded in equal measure, Love still possesses one of the genuinely great female rock voices and in the early ‘90s with her band Hole produced some of the most truly gripping, febrile and chaotic grunge-fuelled music and live performances of that era.

And it is to Hole that Courtney Love returns time and time again tonight. Two new recordings aside – the rather prosaic punk-pop of recent solo double A-side single, ‘You Know My Name’/’Wedding Day’ (the latter opening the 371aset) – the entire show is given over to material from that band’s canon.

Like Love herself, it is a wildly uneven performance. Despite the added gravitas of Ginger Wildheart complementing long-term sideman Micko Larkin on guitar, several songs are diluted from their firebrand originals into what is a more predictable generic rock sound, something not even Love’s mesmeric presence can lift them above. Yet ‘Letter To God’ – a song for outsiders who, like Love, have their noses pressed up against the window, is genuinely moving; ‘Softer, Softest’ remains as disturbing as ever; and a rousing version of ‘Celebrity Skin’ anticipates the possibility of Love eventually re-uniting the line-up that recorded the 1998 album of that name.

Responding to a request from the crowd, Love says “No, I am not getting my tits out”, reasoning that not only is she not in the mood, she is now also 49 years of age. The beautiful tenderness of the first and second encores, ‘Northern Star’ and ‘Dying’, further reveal Love’s vulnerability, something which to that point had not been even vaguely apparent. In those tender moments she is cast more as tragedienne than violator. Perhaps Courtney Love is mellowing after all.


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