AUSTRALIAN singer Vika Bull has returned to Britain for a 23-date autumn tour after first presenting her Etta James tribute to British audiences last year.

Premiered in Melbourne in 2013, At Last – The Etta James Story features Vika and the Australian musicians of The Essential R&B Band recounting the turbulent life story of Californian soul, blues and gospel singer Etta James.

Best known for Tell Mama, Something’s Got A Hold On Me, Sugar On The Floor, I’d Rather Go Blind and her signature song At Last, Etta won six Grammy Awards and was awarded a star on the Hollywood Walk Of Fame, while influencing artists as varied as Diana Ross, Janis Joplin, Stevie Wonder, The Rolling Stones and Rod Stewart and later Christina Aguilera, Adele and Amy Winehouse.

Alas, Etta’s frantic recording and touring schedule coincided with her ever-growing addiction problems and over time she not only sang the blues, she lived the blues.

Mercifully, her passion for life and strength of character saw her conquer her demons and she continued to record and perform into her seventies.

"With respect, this is her story," say the tribute show's producers. A story now told by Vika Bull, 30 years a performer, who has sung for Nelson Mandela, performed at WOMAD festivals worldwide and inside the Pamplona bullring and toured Scandinavia eight times with the Australian blues combo The Black Sorrows.

Tickets for Tuesday's 8pm show are on sale at £43.85 and £32.60 on 0844 871 3024, at or in person from the Barbican box office.

York Press:

Australian singer Vika Bull

Just A Quiickie with...Vika Bull, Australian star of At Last - The Etta James Story

What is the  format of At Last: The Etta James Story?, Vika?

"It's a narrative concert. I tell Etta’s story and, in between, sing her songs. There are 23 in the show – all great - and her story is fascinating."

Etta James is your favourite singer. As a performer, what does it mean to you to sing her songs on stage?

"I take it very seriously. I have a lot of respect for her. When I started in this business at 17, she was the one I listened to every day. I liked the way she sang with power and honesty."

Can you remember the first Etta James song you heard? How did her music influence your career?

"The first song I heard was Roll With Me Henry. I was instantly hooked. I loved the duet, I loved the voices, I loved the song. Her music has influenced my career greatly because of the way that she sang and I liked the fact that she could sing a lot of styles."

How did you prepare for this tribute show?

"I looked up a lot of stuff on the internet. I read her book Rage To Survive. I already knew most of her music, so there was no problem there. The preparation was in preparing mu voice because the show is a very hard sing and I had to get vocally fit."

Is there oner song that still really hits you every time you perform it?

"All I Could Do Was Cry gets me every time. It’s so sad."

Given the longevity of Etta’s career, there are many different styles in the show. Do you have a favourite song to perform? Or one that’s more of a challenge than the rest?

"My favourite song to perform is Tough Lover. The most challenging is The Fool That I Am."

You rose to fame with Australian blues outfit The Black Sorrows. How does touring with a theatrical production differ?

"Yes, very different. The same show every night! I thought I would get bored but I haven’t. I still love performing this show because I love the songs so much and never get tired of them."

You are accompanied by The Essential Band, whose line-up has not changed since the show premiered in 2013. There must be a real chemistry there?

"Yes, we like each other very much and have an enormous amount of respect for each other; some of the members of the band I have been working with for over 20 years."

Why does Etta’s music and story resonate so powerfully with audiences?

"Etta doesn’t really sing bad songs and is a very funny woman. A devil!"

What are you most looking forward to about touring Britain with your Etta tribute? 

 "I reckon the audiences over there will love the show as much as they love her. I mean, what’s not to love: great songs, great story."