Review by Matthew Hocter
Belonging to a club that consists of some of the world's greatest musicians who all passed at the age of 27, is neither cool (debatable for some) nor fair. People taken in the prime of their lives, leaving musical legacies and a slew of unanswered questions in their wake, all things that have aided in the infatuation of what has come to be known as “the 27 club.”
Musical visionaries like Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Jim Morrison, Kurt Cobain and Amy Winehouse are the clubs most notable and famous members, and also the ones whose music has served as the basis for a show that examines some of their vast canons of work, along with the backstories as to how they came to be.
Release Creative, the production house responsible for 27 Club, have created a show that covers a finely curated selection of some of music's most iconic songs, but is most definitely not your stock standard, low grade “cover show.” In fact, it’s safe to say that this show is unlike anything you have seen before. I have made no secret of my lack of love for cover shows and albums, no secret at all. But 27 Club is something far more organic and is purely about the music, rather than the legends associated with their original creators.
Drawing on four of Australia’s most accomplished music performers, Sarah McLeod (Super Jesus), Kevin Mitchell (Bob Evans, Jebbediah), Carla Lippis (Musical Empress) and
Dusty Lee Stephenson with his band, Wanderers, the standard was never going to be in question.
Stephenson and Wanderers opened the show to Hendrix’s “Purple Haze” setting the tone for what was to come over the next hour. The open air venue, Gluttony’s The Moa, was the perfect place for some serious guitar work and all out rock to reverberate into the darkness of the night. Mitchell followed suit with classic Nirvana, “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” reminding many gen X’ers in the audience of the brilliance of their youth.
The night most definitely belonged to the women of 27 Club. McLeod’s ability to nail Joplin’s soulful essence was awe inspiring and unaffected. Belting out some of Joplin’s most recognised music (“Cry Baby,” “Mercedes Benz”), it was also the massive black and white image in the background of Joplin looking over McLeod that created an almost bittersweet moment. The connection between artist and lyrical interpreter was not just audible, its visual presence was also very real.
One of Australia’s greatest musical secrets is most definitely Lippis. Probably more recognised for her Cabaret work in recent times, the vocal prowess and power that she possesses can be summed up in two words: mind blowing. Taking on some of Hendrix’s music, her version of “Foxy Lady” had everyone on the edge of their seats, edging for more. But it was the scaled back version of Nirvana's “Lithium” that allowed the singer to truly flex her vocal and emotional range. A hauntingly beautiful version that was quite possibly the stand out moment of the entire show.
This is THE show of the Adelaide Fringe in 2022.