Hayes Theatre Co, June 18
I’m no Nirvana buff but Justin Burford seems to me to do an amazing job of channeling Kurt Cobain in his rock-cabaret Kurt.
First seen at the 2012 Adelaide Cabaret Festival, Burford weaves some carefully chosen words (all of them Cobain’s own, taken from his writings and interviews) through a selection of songs, both the big hits and lesser-known tracks, among them Aneurysm, In Bloom, Come As You Are, Rape Me and, of course, Smells Like Teen Spirit.
Assuming that the audience will have some knowledge of Cobain’s life, Kurt is no Wikipedia-like, A to Z bio-show. Instead, Burford has selected pithy, telling quotes, which capture Cobain’s dry sense of humour and offer an insight into where he and his music came from, the kind of complex man he was, his marriage to Courtney Love, the heroin addiction, his struggle with fame, and how things all got to be too much. At the same time, he maintains an element of enigma.
Burford, the former front man of pop-rock band End of Fashion and star of the musical Rock of Ages, takes on Cobain’s softly spoken voice and captures his grungy look, laid-back demeanour and mannerisms.
As for his singing, he has a great, growling, gravelly rock voice that is perfectly suited to Nirvana’s material and Cobain’s angst-filled, raging vocals.
Performing the show as part of the Hayes Theatre Co’s 2015 cabaret season, Burford is joined by Phil Ceberano on guitar, Nick Sinclair on bass guitar and Ben Isackson on drums – an exceptionally tight rock outfit.
Cobain isn’t your traditional expansive cabaret persona. A self-deprecating, laid-back, almost introverted figure, Burford draws the audience to him rather than reaching out to us. But the band really rips into the music. Kurt is a change of pace to most cabaret shows but still fits under the umbrella of a genre that is an increasingly broad church.
As I said, I’m no Nirvana buff and I didn’t know all the songs as some in the audience clearly did, but the show really takes you into Cobain’s world, offering an insight into his brief but blazingly influential career.
Kurt plays at the Hayes Theatre Co on June 19. Bookings: www.hayestheatre.com.au or 02 8065 7337