Saturday 06 August 2022
Thebarton Theatre. (Frontier Touring)
Review – Geoff Jenke
Soulful sisters Vika & Linda Bull have played with many great Australian artists over the years. A regular live gig with Paul Kelly, providing backing vocals and supplying a depth to Kelly’s songs that wouldn’t usually be there. They have also released a dozen or so albums themselves, although mostly live albums. Their latest release, The Wait is their first album of original music since 2002’s Love is Mighty Close. Linda says of the new album, “It took us three times to make this record, it kept getting delayed and we’ve been waiting 19 years to make this record… waiting for more songs. Waiting for the right opportunity.”
And this evening, at the Thebarton Theatre, after a couple of reschedules due to the current world environment, we finally get to hear some of the great tracks off the album, as they should be heard, live. “We have a new album out called The Wait and it’s 12 months old, but we want to play some tunes off it. Such are the times” Linda told us at the start of the show.
First up Tanya Batt, affectionately known as just BATTS, entertained the audience with just her voice and a guitar. With a darkened theatre, all lights off, BATTS was just lit by a single spot light for the entire show, changing colour with each song. With the rising fog behind her, this looked absolutely stunning. She has a new album out later this year, The Nightline, and we got a serving of tracks off that forthcoming album, including the beautiful song in Blue, along with a Gillian Welch cover of Everything is Free. Tanya’s weave of folk and rock, along with her wonderful voice made for great listening.
It is hard being a solo guitar/singer support artist in a theatre setting, but BATTS was very much appreciated, as between songs you could have heard a pin drop in the theatre, such was the attention she commanded.
Vika & Linda (and band) hit the stage and straight into the song There Ain’t No Grave (Gonna Hold My Body Down) from religious songwriter, Brother Claude Ely. This was followed by the traditional gospel song, I’m on my Way with some wonderful slide guitar accompaniment.
However, it was the new(ish) album, The Wait, Vika & Linda were here to promote and play, promising to play the entire album, which they did. Raise My Hand is a powerful stirring song that deserves to be played in stadiums around the world. Some very heavy bass intro (and outro) for Paul Kelly’s Be Careful What You Pray For gave the song a heavy vibe. The girls giving praise to Paul Kelly for supporting their career over the years and mentioning the new Paul Kelly Lane in Adelaide.
The Parting Song, from 1996, is an early Vika & Linda collaboration about their parents. Apparently, dad was not happy with the song but it sounds wonderful live. Not the Same Girl from the new album saw Linda take the spotlight, singing solo.
Vika later took her turn with a solo spot with If I Could Start Today Again proving the girls are really good singing on their own. But together they are a powerhouse, whether it is gospel, harmonising, soul or raucous rock and roll that they are singing.
Grandpa’s Song, one of the first songs the girls wrote together, was beautiful and Rabbit Hole rocked.
Chris Cheney’s Lover Don’t Keep Me Waiting led to the standing ovation finale in When Will You Fall For Me. Playing an entire new album is always a risk. But with a 19-song set, there was always room for some of the older classics. Besides the new album is all killer, no filler so the songs standalone nonetheless.
A tribute to Archie Roach (and Judith Durham) in Archie’s Reach for You started the encore with Linda taking the spotlight. Not to be outdone, Vika took the Etta James song Strange Things Happening Every Day to new levels with just keyboard and guitar and the rest of the band clapping along and enticing the audience to do so as well.
The girls finished the set with a Black Sorrows number, Never Let Me Go, having sang on the original Black Sorrows version. The song bought the crowd back to its feet again. Before leaving the stage, Vika and Linda thanked the audience for hanging on to their tickets and for supporting live music by attending.
For far too many years Vika and Linda have been singing behind many Australian rock heroes like Paul Kelly and Joe Camilleri. Tonight, they came to the front of the stage and one the strength of this wonderful performance they deserve to stay there going forward.