Courtney Love Danforth Music Hall, Toronto ON, July 20

Courtney Love Danforth Music Hall, Toronto ON, July 20
Photo: Carrie Musgrave
After all the tabloid headlines, it's sometimes hard to remember why Courtney Love is famous in the first place (hint: it's not just because she had a famous husband). Strutting onto the stage at the Danforth Music Hall to the sounds of a regal march, all eyes were on Love, her presence still magnetic.

Any thoughts that music had become a sideshow to the singer were immediately thrown aside as she and her four-piece band played the opening chords of "Plump." Almost 50, age has only improved her raspy voice (the cigarettes, which she smoked compulsively from the stage, often between lines in a song, can't have hurt either), which tore into lines like "It makes me sick…"

Wearing a black vest over a white blouse with long ruffles falling from the sleeves, Love increasingly resembles Stevie Nicks on stage. Throughout the night she'd snap the flowers off of roses, throwing the petals into the crowd, followed by the dead stem. Appropriately, "Gold Dust Woman" made an appearance in the set, featuring all the brooding menace of Hole's original cover of the Nicks-sung, Fleetwood Mac classic.

Backed by the same musicians she used on Hole's last tour, Love was supposed to have a new album out by now; instead she used the opportunity to dig into her own catalogue to pull out gems from her own past. "Jennifer's Body" and "Asking For It" were welcome additions to usual suspects like "Malibu" and "Awful," although Pretty on the Inside was ignored altogether. Newer selections like "Honey" and "Pacific Coast Highway" from Nobody's Daughter received similarly rapturous receptions from the crowd of die-hard fans. And freed from the expectations that come with the Hole name or a new album to promote, Love seemed loose and relaxed, casually offering nuggets of wisdom from the stage, like "I have earned the right to sing the blues" after flubbing a blues cover "about drugs."

It was clear that a few years of touring has made her band a tight unit; they were able to extend songs on a whim, even if they weren't always sure what was happening, as Love tended to make split second decisions from the stage.

The main set ended with "Miss World" after which Love explained, "you know what to do if you want more…" After a quick costume change she and guitarist Micko Larkin returned for a trio of acoustic numbers — "Petals," "Dying" and "Northern Star" — before capping the night with "Doll Parts" a song Love said she doesn't even like anymore. Still, her performance said otherwise, as she once again bit into lines like "I want to be the girl with the most cake." It's a sentiment that says as much about the singer today as it did when she originally wrote it. Only now, she's earned it.