At Last The Etta James Story, Gig/ Theatre Review. Epstein Theatre, Liverpool.

Liverpool Sound and Vision Rating * * * * *

Etta James’s larger than life story is such that it could be the proud moment in a television schedule or a Box office hit at the cinema; one of the finest, most complete voice of Blues to have ever graced the stage, she ranks alongside the likes of Billie Holliday, Big Mama Thornton and Janis Joplin as the all-embracing women of the genre, somebody who truly lived the life, who gave their life to sing the Blues.

It is a story that can only really be captured as it is intended, as a gig, as that special moment when the music is nothing but consuming, as absolute and in Vika Bull’s performance as the dramatic persona of Etta James and the well versed band, John McAll, Tibor Gyapjas, Ben Gillespie, Chris Bekker, John Watson, Don Hirini and Anton Delacca. It was a night in which Etta James came to the front of the Epstein Theatre and gave the performance which the noted Blues woman would have no doubt pounded at the gates of Liverpool to do.

This smash hit from Australia explained in parts the life of Etta James, both Ms. Bull and Tibor Gyapjas speaking the words of abandon, of welcome, of drug fuelled rejection and honest Blues, yet it was the full on concert that gave it its special meaning, Etta James was a Hell of a woman and it takes something, not just special but overwhelmingly extraordinary to capture the voice and the songs that made Ms. James the woman of substance and life fuelled personality.

It is possible to believe when you leave the theatre that you have never heard a better version of I’d Rather Be Blind, that songs of heartbreak and female dominant Blues such as Tell Mama, Something’s Got A Hold On Me, Sugar On The Floor, Roll With Me Henry and the ironic Out On The Street Again have never been heard in quite the same way before, it is a testament to Ms. Vika Bull that the music that was always so beautiful is, in Ms Bull’s hands to be seen as exceptional.

This lady sings the Blues, in Vika Bull’s case, she lives and breathes each note of one the seminal women of the genre as if she is steeped in the very essence that makes people such as Etta James so remarkable, so memorable, so passionate about their craft. At Last The Etta James Story is magnificent and each song is given so much heart that you could feel the pulse from Hanover Street to downtown Chicago and the line being uninterrupted as the Old Chess Records booms into life.


Ian D. Hall