Vika Bull has a voice that could stop a meteor hitting Earth, and that voice is magnificently deployed in At Last the story of Etta James, the woman who sang the blues on her terms, and her terms only. Backed by the superb Essential R&B band, musical director John McAll on the ivories, the grooving Chris Bekker on a booming bass, the silky smooth John Watson on drums and the effervescent, ever-smiling Dion Hirini on guitar, along with a swinging horn section of Tibor Gyapjas on trumpet, Anton Delecca on the sax and Eric Budd on the trombone, At Last, lives up to its title.
Narrated by Bull and Gyapjas, this celebration of Etta’s turbulent career brings to life the voice and the woman without the fanfare of hype. Etta James was many things and as one of the largest stars around in her day, and beyond, it is to be expected that her voice would at times be overshadowed by her off-stage dalliances with men and drugs, but it is the music we should remember above all, exactly what the behind-the-scenes crew have focused on. Bull powers her way, seemingly effortlessly, through an array of James’ finest melodies, “Tell Mama”, “Something”s Got A Hold On Me”, “Pushover”, “I”d Rather Go Blind” and the signature tune “At Last”, returning to the stage after an age of applause to let it all rip in one mother of an encore.
Whether you’re a fan of James or not, listening to such classic R&B songs delivered so cleanly gives you an appreciation of what grass roots are, and of those who sowed the seeds so many others went on to harvest.
At Last – The Etta James Story played at Her Majesty’s Theatre.
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