Left – Vika Bull. Photo – Lightbox Photography
At Last – The Etta James Story has completed two sold out seasons at the Sydney Opera House since it's world premiere back in 2013.
It deserves to do so again in 2016.
It's not just simply a case of nobody does Etta better than Vika Bull, a truism that surpasses an easy slogan, but the integral musical accompaniment of the Essential R&B Band that make this show such a blast.
Writer John Livings has put together a keep it simple scenario to keep this narrative concert swinging, providing the chronological mortar of bio to the bricks of brio built by Etta's passionate performance persona – the edifying edifice of a monumental talent.
The show kicks off with a belting good rendition of Tell Mama, followed by a rollicking I Just Want to Make Love to You. The first Act contains eight more songs, finishing with the stunning Kiki Dee composition, Sugar on the Floor.
Vika presents some of the spoken narrative between songs but the bulk of the narration is delivered by band trumpeter, Tibor Gyapjas, a cheeky chronicler of abuse, addiction, passion and redemption.
Musical director, John McAll, on stage tickling the ivories and conducting the musos, offers splendid arrangements that showcase both Vika's voluminous vocal range and the band's virtuosity.
Each member of the band – drummer, John Watson, Dion Hirini, guitar, Ben Gillespie on trombone, basist, Chris Bekker, Anton Delecca on sax – have their sizzling solo moments, a star band, a band of stars.
Twenty two songs – including the titular At Last and I'd Rather Go Blind, the title she misguidedly signed over the writing credit for – over two acts makes for a mighty night of entertainment.
The towering, energetic performances of both Vika Bull and The Esssential R&B Band is a marvellous tribute, steeped in honour and respect, for the late, great Etta James.
Sydney Opera House
AT LAST – THE ETTA JAMES STORY
by John Livings
Venue: Drama Theatre, Sydney Opera House
Dates: 12 – 17 July 2016
Tickets: $74 – $119