Round two at the Adelaide Cabaret Festival and while it feels like I’ve only just gotten over the hangover I’d sustained from Friday’s festivities, the cider I’m cradling in the Banquet Room still seems like an awesome idea. Tonight I’m joined by a packed out venue of seated punters for KURT, a performance based around the life and career of the legendary Nirvana front man. Looking around, there’s a diverse bunch of people gathered; you’ve got the younger demographic, perhaps here more for End Of Fashion’s Justin Burford, who tonight was playing Kurt Cobain, their parents and then the demographic of people who would have been the angst-ridden teens Nirvana reached out to during the nineties. Though I was too young to be fully appreciative of Nirvana in their prime (Cobain died on my fourth birthday, eerily enough), they were a huge part of my musical education thanks to cousins and other family members who praised the man as a legend and figurehead of the grunge revolution.
I had no prior knowledge about how well the previous performances of this show had gone, but I’d approached tonight with no real expectations. I’d seen End Of Fashion in the past and was a bit sceptical about how Burford would approach Cobain, considering both bands are completely different from each other. The stage set up was simple, drums, bass and a lead and rhythm guitar; but then again, things weren’t exactly complicated and overdone back then either. So, as I sat front row for this gig, I really had no idea what to expect.
Watching Burford channel Cobain was hard at first, but it wasn’t long before I began to feel slightly freaked out. Dressed in the classic nineties ensemble of ripped jeans, striped t-shirt over a long sleeved top, topped off with a shaggy and unkempt lot of brunette hair, Burford had the mannerisms, accent and stage presence down to a tee. The insights into Kurt’s life begin with the famous quip about believing he was an alien put on Earth, leading into “Territorial Pissings” – a performance which was a kickass starter for the show. The audience is then taken through some great renditions of Nirvana songs including “Even in His Youth” and “Rape Me”, while Burford-as-Cobain offers some moments of monologue which provides some moments of sadness and odd realisation for the audience to ponder on.
“Heart Shaped Box” reflected Cobain’s relationship with Courtney Love, his defence of her character and the media assault the couple faced was again, a freakish moment to watch and slightly angering – you began to think what they would have been like today, if he was alive. I enjoyed the section of the show where Cobain’s friendship with Dave Grohl was briefly showcased, before Burford and the band launched into “Smells Like Teen Spirit”; it felt a bit weird to be seated for this sort of music, but it was great to look around and see all the demographics mentioned above head-banging as much as one can in a cabaret-styled venue to the classic. Speaking of Grohl, the drummer who effectively was taking his ‘spot’ tonight deserves a mention; watching him take on Nirvana’s catalogue tonight was great – he had every piece of his kit under his complete control and he seemed to encapsulate the frenzy-infused grunge that the band had made their own down pat.
Unfortunately I had to leave the gig early in order to make another show, but I can safely say that it was hard to tear myself away. While the sound quality wasn’t at its best (I blame the set up of the venue and stage for that), the performances were rich and dripping with every element which made Nirvana and Kurt Cobain, as a performer, so hard-hitting and memorable. This wasn’t just a performance which came after studying the various live and unplugged performances the band did during their career, learning it word for word; Burford and the musicians onstage really took their time with making their performances as similar to originals as they could be.