An eclectic song-list moved from Tongan gospel to Simon & Garfunkel, with delicious stops in between.
From the opening recording of a Tongan church choir rendering “The Lord’s Prayer”, we were given a taste of the Bull sisters’ dual heritage. The Doncaster-raised duo began with “Irish Lullaby”, which their father used to sing them at bedtime, and the only Tongan song they can perform, learned from their mother. It was a curious but sweet start.
Their love of gospel was evident in the next two songs. “Walk With Me, Lord” had a strutting beat and Vika on evocative lead vocals, though the electric piano was a tad intrusive. The ever-popular and up-tempo “Up Above My Head”, by Sister Rosetta Tharp, was an accomplished complement.
Vika and Linda reminisced about childhood days in front of the TV and of Sunday evenings where it became their “second church”. The audience loved their medley of snatches from TV themes and advertisements, something the sisters have done before in Adelaide. Ranging from the Greenacres theme to a perfectly rendered “Louie, the Fly”, it ticked the nostalgia box with ease. It was also clear that their band could, as it’s said, stop on a sixpence.
Hearing Vika and Linda is about much more than listing songs, of course. Their vocal control is wonderful. Assertive power is blended with a honed sense of timing, knowing when to pull back and allow tenderness to shine. Their blood harmonies may seem easy but are the product of a life of singing together and of working with the best in the music business. Space and grace.
Jo Camilleri’s “Never Let Me Go” received a rousing treatment with Vika belting out the lyrics but it was, perhaps, shaded by “Parting Song”, the song they wrote with Paul Kelly for their father, and which merges aspects of their parents’ different cultures.
The old spiritual, “My Mind Set On Freedom” followed and then an absolutely riveting version of Etta James’ “I’d Rather Be Blind” from Vika. Willie Nelson got a look in with the bitter-sweet “You Were Always On My Mind”.
How to top all of this? Linda took lead vocals for the first two verses of “Bridge Over Troubled Waters” before Vika joined in. It was one of the best renditions I have heard and left the crowd eager for more, but the lights went up and the show was over.
Regardless, it was just the warming touch that a winter night in Adelaide needed.
Vika and Linda are performing tonight (Friday) and tomorrow afternoon (Saturday, June 22) at the Dunstan Playhouse.
See all InDaily’s Cabaret Festival stories and reviews here.