Directed by Simon Myers, At Last is John Livings’ tribute to Jamesetta Hawkins, who the world knew as Etta James.
There is little doubt that a tribute show to the late Etta James requires a charismatic performer with exceptional vocal ability and, thankfully, At Last triumphs in this area with the powerhouse vocals of Vika Bull, one of Australia’s finest performers of her generation who has proven herself as a formidable blues, soul, gospel and country singer. Backed by the superb ‘Essential R & B Band’ under the Musical Direction of John McCall, this is a must see show that will not only entertain but will provide an insight into the life of a gifted yet troubled soul.
Born during the Great Depression, James’ story is one of hardship and triumph, and openly discusses her addictions to illicit drugs, which often saw her in difficult circumstances. Although the narrative is sometimes in need of polish and editing, it details the extraordinary life of Etta James in such a way that you feel the struggle and strain of her existence in every note that Vika Bull emanates so perfectly. The band also rise to the occasion and deliver a ‘wow’ experience from beginning to end. They were tight, energetic and on the money with the standouts being Dion Hirini on Guitar and Vocals and Tibor Gyapjas on Trumpet/Co-narration.
Musical numbers included the popular tunes such as I Just Want To Make Love To You, Spoonful, Sugar On The floor, and perhaps her most well known song, At Last. Bull’s channelling of It’s a Man’s Mans’ World and I’d Rather Go Blind were vocal highlights though, and showed off both her emotion and projection.
Etta James dealt with addiction for most of her life, but she rose above this along with her body image to become one of the most admired and respected artists of her time who influenced others such as the Rolling Stones, Stevie Wonder and the late Amy Winehouse to name a few.
In a tumultuous career spanning almost six decades, Etta James died in January 2012. Her life and career epitomises the path of triumph over adversity. To quote Vika Bull, Etta James not only sang the blues, she lived the blues!
Reviewed by Darren Hassan
Venue: Her Majesty’s Theatre, Grote St City
Season: 2 & 3 Aug 2013
Duration: 2 hours approx (20 minute interval)
Tickets: Adult $69.00 Concession $59.00 Groups 6+ 59.00
Bookings: Book at BASS