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At Last Etta James Comes to Melbourne's Arts Centre
Bonnie Raitt once said James' voice could be "raucous and down one song, and then break your heart with her subtlety and finesse the next." Vika Bull's interpretation mirrored the imperfections and soaring heights of her heroine, a woman for whom she clearly has the greatest admiration.
With the help of trumpet-player Tibor Gyapjas in his role as compere, Vika Bull told the tale of Etta James' career in song and story, delivered for the most part in her Australian accent with the odd bit of Etta-channelling interspersed.
Vika Bull as Etta James
The big band sound was produced by a seven piece backing band comprised of a consummate bunch of musicians led by musical director and keyboardist extraordinaire John McAll. A highlight for this reviewer was one of James' own compositions 'Roll With Me Henry', performed as a duet by Bull and trombonist Ben Gillespie, whose tall, pale frame did nothing for his Little Richard impersonation but whose fine vocals were a tribute to the Small One.
Vika Bull and Ben Gillespie
This show has been more than three years in the making and its Playhouse season is less than a week long, so there's no time to waste.