It’s safe to say there’s a lot of us who have never seen Nirvana live. The last (and only) time they toured to Australia was February 1992 for Big Day Out. Two years later, Kurt Cobain was found dead in his Seattle home. Since then I’ve spent a lot of time kicking myself for missing out on the opportunity to see them play, as I’m sure many people have. But thanks to The Courtney Dunnits, those that were at The Newport Record Club Thursday night were able to experience a little live Nirvana magic.
After already paying tribute to Nevermind in the first season of The Newport Record Club, The Courtney Dunnits were back for season 3 with a few line-up changes to perform Nirvana’s In Utero – a determined and heartfelt album that still undeniably influences millions. Featuring Justin Burford, Hugh Jennings, Mike Hobbs and Rodney Aravena from End of Fashion these guys have put together something that’s far from your average ‘cover’ band. Living and breathing every part of Nirvana’s musical influences, The Courtney Dunnits were absolute naturals.
Fitting the part in a classic 90’s grunge outfit of ripped jeans and striped shirts, front man Justin Burford steps into character to become Kurt Cobain. And the similarities are freakishly parallel. Playing Cobain’s music note to note, word from word and raw authenticity to full magnitude, Nirvana’s In Utero was taken on so easily – as if they had written it themselves.
Second guitarist Rodney Aravena played the role of Nirvana’s Pat Smear smoothly as The Courtney Dunnits performed In Utero from start to finish. Hobbsy’s drumming skills were explosive all-hands-in-the-air; complete with Hugh on bass and Justin as ‘Kurt’, their stage presence for a Nirvana show was spot on.
Heart Shaped Box was emotionally dynamic, drenched in a vocal tone from Burford that truly reflected Cobain’s. Rape Me was intense, with the quickly growing crowd now clearly excited at The Courtney Dunnits’ ability to portray Nirvana. Playing each song near perfectly in such a mind blowing way, they continued through to crowd favourites Dumb, Milk It (one of In Utero’s darkest songs) and Pennyroyal Tea with the vibe (and mosh pit) now positively going off. The album was finished off nicely with All Apologies; with its sweet melody and vibrant flow beautifully portrayed.
To top it off, the band rocked on into Drain You, Even in His Youth and Lithium. Finishing up with one of Nirvana’s most animated songs, Breed channelled a deep lust feel to the set list making almost everyone in the audience wish the show had no end.
Offering such a close glimpse of what it would really be like to see Nirvana live, Burford and the band gave a memorable performance that was literally dripping with everything renowned to Cobain and Nirvana – perfect for any die-hard fan or casual Nirvana listener. Captivating, powerful and oh so consuming it was as close to the real deal as anyone could ask for. There was so much excitement across the crowd that night – an energy that’s almost impossible to describe. Everyone really seemed to be in their element. To be honest, it was an extremely hard show to fault. And even if there were some mistakes, it was nothing Kurt Cobain wouldn’t have done anyway.
Special thanks to The Newport Hotel and Dean Smith for the use of their fantastic photos.