I have a had a life-long love of the arts; enjoying theatre, ballet, art and movies. We are all time poor and have limits to our entertainment budget so I hope an honest review will help make your choices easier.
At Last: The Etta James Story, a narrated concert starring Vika Bull, is currently playing at Brisbane's Powerhouse Theatre.
The story of Etta James, at first telling, is one of abuse, neglect and addiction. However, as hit after hit is woven through her chaotic story an amazing life and staggering record of musical achievement emerges. In spite of the chaos, possibly because of it, Etta built a successful career performing amazingly powerful anthems of love and female-power including: At Last; I'd Rather Go Blind; It's a Man's Man's Man's World; Something's Got a Hold on Me; and my favourite for the evening, Sugar on the Floor. Etta James was the winner of six Grammy Awards and performed with many soul and rock legends, including James Brown and the Rolling Stones.
Hats off to Vika Bull - she sure can sing. She commanded the theatre, belting out big notes with a voice that was clear and true. Rather than imitating Etta James, Vika's performance was more a tribute to Etta's life and music. While I would have loved to hear the soul and pure sass associated with Etta James, Vika, in my opinion, is a star in her own right and her performance was thoroughly enjoyable.
Vika was ably backed by seven equally talented musicians. When Ben Gillespie joined Etta in a duet, he proved to be an able singer as well as an excellent trombonist. I couldn't fault Vika Bull's singing or Tibor Gyapias' trumpet playing, yet their talents clearly do not extend to acting or storytelling. This didn't seem to matter however, Etta's story was so interesting and the music so good the audience was willing to forgive the disjointed and often clumsy narration.
Vika's booming voice, the amazing band performance, energetic audience seat-dancing and the stomping standing ovation left the powerhouse rocking. My only disappointment on the night was the lack of a dance floor.