Courtney Love dressed in bright red shoes, neon green tights, a princessy yellow, green and pink chiffon dress, her face painted up and hair tamed only by a head band, for one song only. She looked like hell. She sang like she’s been there.

Over the last few years, the Hole frontwoman has tumbled through a number of legal debacles, from raising her and late husband Kurt Cobain’s child, to the rummage of their estate, to a regular trickle of venom to and through the media, love affairs, drug abuses, what would be the stuff of normal tabloid behavior were it not coming from a woman in her 40s. While it may seem unfair to judge celebrities by age and gender, that’s precisely why the hatchet has come down so hard on Love, and why, if Hole manages to perform as exhilaratingly as they did last night in Austin, the comeback will be all the more outrageous.
 
Love, a friend of celebrity goss blogger Perez Hilton (perhaps a dangerous friend to have), played with her band at his SWAGG Presents… Perez Hilton’s One Night In Austin party, a badge-free South By Southwest event open to the public. It was one of the few music showcases that ran especially late, with Hole going on about 45 minutes after it’s slated surprise slot, around 2 a.m.
 
It was little surprise that half the room cleared and a smaller, new crowd shuffled in before its start: the night boasted mostly pop and dance artists, with Estelle, Alphabeat, Snoop Dogg and others. Not exactly a cohesive night for the abusive, hilarious banter of Love and snarling guitars, but you can’t say there wasn’t something for everyone.
 
Hilton introduced Love, saying she was going to stick to the hits, a statement likely in retort to her show at the SPIN party the night before, where she debuted an awful lot of new material from forthcoming “Nobody’s Daughter.” That set will be first Hole album since 1998, and the first studio recording from Love since her solo album “America’s Sweetheart” from 2004.
 
Though there were a few new tunes – of which I’m having mixed feelings overall – in the mix, she deftly growled through “Doll Parts,” “Celebrity Skin,” “Malibu,” “Miss World,” “Violet” and set closer “Samantha” (wait, what? Why?). New single “Skinny Little B*tch” reared it’s ugly head early in the set, and “Letter to God” had some burning-lava potential.
 
But then there was the opening song, “Thirteen,” a Big Star cover Love sang with only Micko Larkin on acoustic behind her, in tribute to Alex Chilton who would have played SXSW this very night; she closed her eyes and whirled around like Stevie Nicks, another influence on her work. In fact, she sang Fleetwood Mac track “Gold Dust Woman” in aces later on. Hole covered that track for “The Crow” soundtrack. She also sang Rolling Stones' "Sympathy for the Devil" (the crowd got several glimpses, too, of her Let It Bleed tattoo, on inside of her right bicep).
 
Meanwhile, between the bars, she lovingly called the audience “c*nts,” “f*ckers” and other such petnames, made a joke a menstruation, and revealed some insecurities about the new album. It’s hard to tell what percentage of her gnarly behavior is reality, or substances, but frankly, she was like this when I saw her at 16, I’m not sure why she’d quit now.
 
I have zero complaints about her new three-piece backing band, though the underlying drama of competing creative egos and performing songs with people you will eventually hate is absent, previously instilled by Melissa Auf der Maur and Eric Erlandson. And I say backing because there still seems to be some legal to-do about Love being able to use the Hole name or if “Nobody’s Daughter” has to be a Love solo effort.
 
Regardless, it was a balls-out show, to aspire to the night’s nomenclature, and the audience soaked it up on her command: “Go on, take everything.”
 
Hole will play L.A. on April 22-23, New York April 27-28, then the band heads out for some overseas dates in May. “Nobody’s Daughter” is out April 27.