The Adelaide Festival Centre is buzzing for the opening night of the Adelaide Cabaret Festival and I’m fortunate enough to be amongst it, attending my personal must-see of the season. I’m a self-professed fanatic of 90s music, so a performance based on Kurt Cobain, one of the most influential musicians of the past 20 years, is something I had to be a part of.
As we walk in we’re greeted with the warning “This show is going to be VERY loud”, which is good. Anything less and I would’ve been disappointed.
Modern blue-grass tunes are bouncing off the walls that have been decorated with psychedelic art work and I’m not sure what to expect. The intimate cabaret style setting is not one I would’ve particularly picked for a grunge revival show but it works.
At first glance, you know the performance is going to be an extraordinary hit or a failure. Justin Burford is perhaps best known for fronting ‘End of Fashion’, a band which has a completely different vocal approach to the stiff-jawed Seattle sound that Nirvana are famous for. To take on the role of personifying Kurt Cobain is a great challenge to set your sights on but Burford transforms with such precision, it’s spooky. The mannerisms, stage presence and voice resemble Cobain through and through. He wears the classic 90s combination; torn jeans, stripe t-shirt layered with a long sleeve underneath, later adopting the grungy specs Kurt would sport in his later years. We commence with an eery, merry-go-round adaptation of ‘Come As You Are’ on keys before the band break into Nirvana’s ‘Drain You’ (a personal favourite) and I’m in awe. Somehow we’ve transcended time and I’m seeing music history’s 90s game changer in Adelaide.
Snippets of insights into Kurt’s childhood, love life, sickness and drug use are woven into a timeline with the Nirvana classics that we all wanted to hear. The band captures the essence of the 1993 MTV Unplugged performance flawlessly. The haunting sounds of the cello on ‘Dumb’ are played on keys and the dual vocal outro in ‘All Apologies’ were spot on. There’s a unique dynamic to the show in that being seated at a cabaret table you are able to witness audience members across all generations banging their heads to the music of the influential artist.
As the performance get’s closer and closer to the inevitability of Cobain’s death, the songs are played in full and you realise that the act has not broken at any stage throughout the show. Burford and the band hit ‘Aneurysm’ in the heart; exhilarating the audience and ending the performance on a high energy note.
The show was not what I expected but everything I had wanted, which leaves me curious as to what other transcendent acts have manifested themselves throughout this year’s Caberet Festival.
As for the show being loud, personally I think it could’ve been louder because it was so perfect, I didn’t want it to end.
There are two more ‘Kurt’ shows; tonight and Sunday night at 7pm. It’s in your best interests to don your favourite flannelette shirt and head down.
Kryztoff’s Rating 4.5K
See our interview with Justin Burford at Click Here
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