Bebe Buell Makes ‘Hard Love’ at Hiro Ballroom
Since the early ’70s, Bebe Buell has worn a lot of hats: Playboy Playmate, model, muse—she served as part inspiration for the character Penny Lane in Cameron Crowe’s Academy Award-winning film Almost Famous)—author (the New York Times bestseller Rebel Heart), and celebrity mom of Liv Tyler. You know, Steven’s daughter.
Now, Bebe is ready to pen a new chapter in her ongoing rock & roll saga with the release of Hard Love (Niji Entertainment Group), her first album since 2009′s Sugar. Recorded with Guns N’ Roses drummer Frank Ferrer, former Iggy Pop/Glenn Danzig/Samhain bassist Pete Marshall on bass, former Das Damen/D-Generation guitarist Jimmy Walls on guitar, and former U Melt keyboardist Zac Lasher, Hard Love is the end result of a lifetime in rock.
At the time of the album’s release last month, Bebe called it “the most important record of my career and it comes from deep in my soul and guts! I love my fans and that’s why I do this…I’m my happiest onstage and I can’t wait to hit the road and play these songs live with the strongest line-up I’ve ever made magic with.”
For her loyal New York City fans, the wait ended on Oct. 12 when Bebe reclaimed the stage at the venerable Hiro Ballroom in Chelsea for a special performance of her entire album and other choice cuts.
The night kicked off with some spoken word from “The Goddess Mary Raffaele” (formerly of Cycle Sluts from Hell). In a sprawling, multi-page paean, Raffaele chronicled her history with Bebe, first referring to her as a rival for capturing the heart of rocker/producer Todd Rundgren (the two lived together years at the height of his fame), then waxing philosophical about sisterhood in general, which drew roars of approval from the boomers and hipsters in the crowd who had by then congregated around the Hiro stage. Admitting that she misplaced the final page of her girl power diatribe, Raffele decided to wing the rest, reminding the women on hand to love the way the look now, because they’ll probably never look that good again. This nugget of hard truth was rewarded with thunderous applause.
The stage then darkened and everyone in attendance was treated to a lengthy slideshow of Bebe’s career, rounding all the bases and presenting every rock god encounter a fan could ask for (Bowie! Roth! Elvis (Costello)!). We also got to see her evolution from indie musician, to Playboy pin-up, to fashion icon, and finally to her now self-proclaimed title as “Mother of Rock & Roll” (which also happens to be a pile-driving tune from the new disc). On stage, in front of screaming fans, backed by dummer Sarah Tomek, guitarist Jimmy Walls (who also played guitar on Hard Love), guitarist Pete Marshall (who also played bass on Hard Love), bassist Enzo Penizotto (who played with Joan Jett), and back up vocalist Louisa “Mysteria” Bradshaw, Bebe grabbed the microphone with authority and belted out each song with a hard edge. Sporting a Steve Nicks-style hat and a black blazer, Bebe strutted like Mick Jagger as fans cheered while pumping their fists in the air. The crowd was obviously happy to have her back on stage, and Bebe’s smile shined in the spotlight.
With provocatively named fare like “Sugar,” “Black Angel” and the Gang of Four chestnut “I Love a Man in a Uniform,” Bebe was in total command throughout. With the show finished and the audience spent, all of the CDs on display in the lobby earlier in the evening had now vanished, to be signed by Bebe herself for her most dedicated followers.
As Prince used to say, not bad…for a girl.