Etta James’ rags to riches rollercoaster of a life had more twists and turns than a Chubby Checker song. Her story was told to audiences this week at the Brisbane Powerhouse through a two-hour narrative concert, At Last: The Etta James Story.
Etta’s most famous songs were channelled through blues and soul high-belter Vika Bull and a band of talented musicians. Vika’s respect for the blues/RnB/jazz songstress was evident through the way she sang her songs. Vika did not try to imitate Etta, for doing so would be disrespectful to such a uniquely gifted voice. Instead, Vika stayed true to her own effortless style with her powerhouse voice and engaging storytelling.
At Last: The Etta James Story remarkably compacts over five decades of a music career into a two-hour captivating concert. Starting life in foster care, Etta's abusive and alcoholic foster father would wake her in the early hours of the morning and force her to sing for his friends. The traumatic experiences caused her to later develop a debilitating anxiety when asked to sing on demand. Fans of Etta James would know the soul legend earned a star on The Hollywood Walk of Fame and six Grammy Awards. Lesser known is the real journey, which included drug addictions, being taken advantage of, prison sentences, and weight issues.
The emotional story is perfectly paired with all the right songs to enhance the show’s mood, and sensationally ends with none other than ‘At Last’.