At Last: The Etta James Story Review @ Brisbane Powerhouse

  • Written by 
  • Monday, 02 July 2018 16:14
Published in Music News  
'At Last: The Etta James Story' 'At Last: The Etta James Story' Image © Facebook

This smash-hit show saw its world premiere in Melbourne in 2013 and since then has been selling out theatres across Australia, New Zealand and the UK, receiving 5 star reviews and multiple standing ovations wherever it played.

Starring the sensational Vika Bull – best known for her work with the Black Sorrows - 'At Last' (30 June) charts the story of soul legend Etta James’ turbulent life and features some of her most beloved songs including 'Tell Mama', 'Something’s Got A Hold On Me', the heart-rending I’d Rather Go Blind', and her iconic signature song 'At Last'.

The show is punctuated by the two narrators – Vika and trumpet player Tibor Gyapjas – who provide concise descriptions of how Etta’s life unfolded and the impact certain events had on her career. Vika starts by giving us an insight into the early life of Etta James who was born Jamesetta Hawkins to her 14-year-old mother – Dorothy Hawkins. Vika describes the unstable start to Etta’s life before launching into a fantastic rendition of ‘Tough Lover’, featuring an impressive trumpet solo by Gyapjas.

At the height of her career, Etta James was a superstar, rubbing shoulders with artist like Ike Tina Turner, Chuck Berry and Muddy Waters who were her stable mates at Chess Records. She won six Grammy Awards and a star on The Hollywood Walk of Fame and was invited to perform at the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics Opening Ceremony - singing 'When the Saints Coming Marching In'.

At her lowest point, Etta James suffered from cocaine, amphetamine and heroin addiction, served time in jail and was finally bankrupted.

During the show, her seven piece band are given all the room they need to showcase their individual talents – with each of them given time for an extended solo. The musical arrangements are superb and while true to the original sound, these are not jukebox renditions but carefully crafted songs designed to highlight Vika’s voice and feisty stage presence.

Vika gets plenty of opportunities to display her astonishing vocal prowess – moving effortlessly from blues, to soul, rock ‘n’ roll, r ‘n’ b, jazz and even pop. The band are with her every inch of the way and every song is given stunning treatment by these accomplished musicians.

The show moves at quite a pace – slowing only for the narrators to unveil another aspect of her tumultuous life.

Vika Bull and her band are the perfect outfit to pay homage to the late great Etta James and in this moving show that combines storytelling, classic soul, jazz and brilliant musicianship,  everyone is on cue and giving it everything they’ve got. Sensational.


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