Apart from being world-famous musicians, do you know what Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Jim Morrison, Kurt Cobain and Amy Winehouse have in common? If you answered they all passed away at age 27, you’re correct. This ‘phenomenon’ has become known as The 27 Club, a notional roll of remembrance of those who burned too bright and left our world too soon. Now the five vocalists are being celebrated in ‘The 27 Club’, a part musical theatre, part-rock, part-cabaret and all-talent show hitting The Arts Centre Gold Coast in November.
Performer Kean Fletcher talks about how the idea was germinated.
“We actually started brainstorming about it in 2015 cause the other two guys (Zack Anthony Curran and Andrew Kroenert) are my best mates and we’ve all done shows together, but we really wanted to a show of our own.
“Someone had the idea for a Kurt Cobain show but that’d been done and someone else talked about Edith Piaf, and we thought ‘why are we so fascinated by these people?’
“Then we stumbled across the 27 Club. The correlation between such a prodigious output [of music] and such inner turmoil… it’s such a great idea because most people are familiar with all or at least one of the artists. It’s an easy entry for people who go to see music theatre or rock shows.”
It’s an unusual topic on which to focus, on a Saturday night out. I asked how they prevent the show from becoming overly morbid.
“It’s just an amazing catalogue of songs from all the artists,” says Keane.
“We didn’t want to make it too depressing – we did want to have an insight into their inner turmoil and I think that’s really clearly represented in the songs anyway – so we didn’t have wring that out of it too much.
“There is a little bit of text that links some of the songs. We tried to stay really objective; we’ve taken a lot of material from interviews they’ve done verbatim, and also their own journal entries, news reports.
“We don’t want to say ‘this is bad they shouldn’t have done that’, we don’t want to depress the audience. It’s like, this is what happened – it’s still happening – and can musical genius exist without a bit of torture is the question that we try to highlight, and the sacrifice these guys made for such a legacy.”
The show features hits such as ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’, ‘Valerie’, ‘Piece Of My Heart’ and many more, some with a different take.
“We stay faithful to the songs when the tone requires it,” Keane explains.
“We put our own spin on it as well by breaking down the grunge songs so we’re able to see how insightful they are and how good the music and lyrics are.
“I think there’s been a real trend in recent years of covering classic songs and breaking them down a bit. But we’ve got the electric guitar, and there’s some definitely some grungy, screaming moments.”
From 1970 to 2011, The 27 Club spans generations, and Keane tells us this is reflected in the audience.
“It’s a real broad cross section of people, which we love. We straddle that cabaret live music area so we get people who are really interested in cabaret and music theatre and diehard Nirvana fans and diehard Jani Joplin fans and people are drinking red wine and singing along or crying in the front row or rocking out.
“We definitely like to have a bit of a rock out too.”
You can catch Keane, Zack and Andrew as they perform ‘The 27 Club’ as part of The Arts Centre Gold Coast’s Sideshow series on Friday 10 and Saturday 11 November. Tickets from theartscentregc.com.au.