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Image: Hayley Simpson

4 stars

Review by Hayley Simpson

The 27 Club. An unfortunate name given to the five talented musicians who peaked too soon and passed away during their prime years, at 27 years of age. The members are rock and pop legends Janis Joplin, Jim Morrison, Amy Winehouse, Kurt Cobain and Jimi Hendrix. What better way to celebrate their lives than inside The Butterfly Club, located down a dark Melbourne laneway. It has been transformed into The 27 Club this week as audiences step back in time to discover more about this ill-fated club through verbatim interviews, news reports, journal entries and of course, their music.

The 27 Club resembles a dimly-lit American dive bar; complete with simply a piano, keyboard and three microphones occupying the small stage. The three voices behind those microphones belong to Zack Curran (Blood Brothers), Keane Fletcher (The Ten Tenors) and Andrew Kroenert (Chitty Chitty Bang Bang). The production begins in the dark with news reports echoing through the audience describing each of the member’s deaths. Then the music starts, juxtaposed with brief glimpses into their troubled lives.

Audiences are treated to stripped-back versions of The 27 Club‘s greatest hits, including Joplin’s Mercedes Benz, Cobain’s Smells like Teen Spirit, Hendrix’s Purple Haze and Morrison’s Light My Fire. Pitch-perfect three-part harmonies accompany some of the songs. A favourite is Fletcher’s renditions of Winehouse’s two major hits: Valerie and Back to Black. His powerful vocals fill the room.

It is hard not to walk out of The 27 Club and reflect on the circumstances. How different would the rock music landscape be if Hendrix or Morrison lived for more than their 27 years? Unfortunately, this is a question that will remain unanswered. But the answer to whether to see The 27 Club this week should be a resounding yes.

The 27 Club was on at The Butterfly Club, Melbourne from the 14th – 19th July 2015.