They gained wide notice as backing vocalists for Joe Camilleri’s The Black Sorrows in the ‘80s. The sisters and the Sorrows are regulars at the Garden of Unearthly Delights during the Adelaide Fringe, and with good reason.
Their 60-minute set was peppered with Paul Kelly songs (they often sing for him), and the affinity is obvious. They opened with Kelly’s delicious “Smells Like Rain”, but less expected was the choice of 16th-century poet Sir Philip Sidney’s sweet sonnet My True Love Hath My Heart, sung to Kelly’s musical arrangement.
The gospel feel for which Vika and Linda are well-known was pronounced in Mahalia Jackson’s “I’m On My Way”, an uplifting staple of the sisters’ shows in which powerful harmonies were embellished with syncopated clapping and a lovely bass interlude. That sense came back later with a rousing “In the Dark”.
“What You Want” (Paul Kelly/Dan Sultan) always strikes me as losing something through its constant repetition. Linda got to indulge her taste for Linda Ronstadt straight afterwards, and a Kasey Chambers country-and-western-tinged effort followed. These three songs felt less tightly crafted than much of the other material, but then the Bull sisters set themselves a remarkably high standard. Perhaps something from Vika’s recent Etta James tribute work would have been right; I’d have chosen “At Last”, for one.
As if to show the difference, they launched into “Never Let Me Go” and had the audience completely on side in a second, responding also to Peter Luscombe’s superb drumming.
It was all glorious stuff from here on. Kelly’s “Be Careful What You Wish For” showed beautiful vocal timing from the pair, and “Strong Love” gave Vika a chance to soar. Luscombe again grabbed attention with his pulsing intro to “Grandpa’s Song”.
The Ronstadt connection returned with Linda offering a sterling version of the Stone Poneys’ “Different Drum” to close the show.
The duo are great singers; that’s in no doubt. That they combine this talent with warm personalities and a rocking good band is the icing on the cake.
Four and a half stars
Vika and Linda Bull performed one show only in the Magic Mirror Spiegeltent at the Garden of Unearthly Delights.