Come As You Are: Unplugged And Beyond As Justin Burford Taps Into The Magic Of Nirvana's 'MTV Unplugged In New York'

'Come As You Are: Unplugged And Beyond'
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Recorded in late 1993, 'MTV Unplugged In New York' remains one of the most revered works in the Nirvana catalogue.

The television broadcast and subsequent album – released in November 1994, seven months after Kurt Cobain's death – revealed a rare personal insight to one of rock's biggest bands and one of its most troubled souls.

"There's a magic in it," End Of Fashion frontman and Nirvana loyalist Justin Burford says. "I guess this could be said about Nirvana's entire career, that there was this perfect storm.

"['MTV Unplugged In New York'] captured a moment; it captured a side of the band I don't think people had seen before. It showed Kurt to be this elusive but enigmatic, charismatic, funny, goofy dude with a legitimate sense of humour. It was really a moment for people and pop culture in general."

Justin brings a little bit of that magic to the stage with 'Come As You Are: Unplugged And Beyond' at Riverside Parramatta in late July. From the iconic flower-and-candle stage setting to Justin channelling his Cobain persona, the show is a living and loving recreation of the 'Unplugged' experience.

"There was always something inside of me that wanted to really capture the rawness and simplicity of the original production," Justin says.

"The point of this was trying to give a live audience the tip-of-the-iceberg taste of what it might have actually been like to have been in that tiny, cramped TV studio in New York in 1993.

"Then I drop the character in the second set, I just come out as myself and reintroduce myself. I explain to the audience that now we're going to play some songs that Nirvana might have played if they'd decided to play some different songs.

"It includes some Nirvana songs, and some other songs Kurt may have chosen. I was super nervous about presenting that concept to an audience because I know what fans are like, but it was super well-received, almost better than the 'Unplugged' set."

2024 marks the 30th anniversary of Kurt Cobain's death. Born unto the generation that would embrace grunge as its religion and Kurt Cobain as its patron saint, Justin says this show has been a catalyst for him to reexamine his relationship with Kurt and how it has changed over the years.

"I touch on that in the second act and talk about his daughter, Frances and her changing relationship with this guy that she still calls Kurt instead of dad," he explains.

"She had some pretty scathing things to say, and it was interesting when I was doing research for the new concept. I found myself relating a lot to Frances' position, that if anyone else had left their family in the way this guy left his family they wouldn't be remembered, and they certainly wouldn't be sanctified.

"People tend to think of Kurt as 'Saint Kurt'. I've done different shows about Nirvana and Kurt Cobain over the years. Each time I come back and revisit Kurt there's this lingering question of 'would I have even liked this guy?'.

"The second part of the show is about bringing it back down to earth a little, which the audience responds to and relates to. It's a gentle reminder that he walked among us," Justin laughs.

'Come As You Are: Unplugged And Beyond' plays at Riverside (Parramatta) 26-27 July.

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