Dunstan Playhouse, Wed 17 Jun.
The 27 Club sadly boasts a long list of pre-eminent musicians who died at age 27 so there is plenty of fine music to choose from. This show highlights music of the better known and more recent members of the club, and it is done so well.
Held together by the chatty and engaging Henry Wagons as narrator, it is also a wonderful showcase of the talents of the four Australian artists chosen to deliver this world premiere. Local songstress Carla Lippis teams up with the extraordinary Daniel Champagne for a beautiful rendition of Robert Johnson’s Me And The Devil Blues. Lippis excels later in the show with her version of Janis Joplin’s Me And Bobby McGee. Joplin’s trademark portrayal of raw emotion was superbly demonstrated by Hayley Mary (from The Jezabels) on Piece Of My Heart. Mary also doubled as Amy Winehouse with a classic cabaret singer at the piano routine for a slow and sensitive Back To Black. Wagons’ version of the Door’s People Are Strange was a masterpiece, and a solo performance from Champagne on ‘percussive guitar’ and vocals was riveting.
The narrative script gets the challenging task of balancing sadness and celebration just right. Wagons did a great job of bringing an authentic humanity to the stories of each artist. Rather than deify or damn, relevant facts from the lives of Joplin, Hendrix et al were presented to simply try and explain why they died so young. Alternative Faustian theories about why some of them took their own lives were also offered – did they indeed make a pact with the devil and intentionally join the 27 Club? We’ll never know, of course, but the sincerity of the stories and the emotional layers embedded in the songs was enough to occasionally bring a tear to the eye.
Not every piece worked. It’s a tough job to cover the songs of icons, but by and large the cast did a fantastic job. Most of the songs chosen were resounding hits. This show needs to be taken on the road – it’s a guaranteed crowd pleaser. Kudos to all involved. Loved it.
27 Club continues at Dunstan Playhouse, Adelaide Festival Centre, from 9pm until Fri 19 Jun.
Book at BASS on 131 246 and bass.net.au. Click HERE to purchase your tickets.