BETWEEN TWO SHORES – Playhouse, Melbourne Arts Centre
22 November 2019
Sitting in row double A at the Playhouse, I was close to the stage. Even though I have been to a cornucopia of shows over the last year, I was eagerly awaiting this one. And you might ask why?
Vika and Linda, both collectively and individually, are one of Australia’s best voices. More than that, they have an innate ability to interpret songs with sincere emotion and conviction. Nothing is ever half-assed. From Vika’s strong voice, where she is athletically able to belt out tunes with such power, to Linda’s country tinged vocals with her impeccable phrasing.
This show, written by Vika and Linda, is a personal one. Each song linking to a piece of their life and career. Intermeshed with stories and song, the show is a revealing and an entertaining journey into the world of the Bulls.
The show weaves their influences from Tongan music, where they were exposed as children to mellifluous Tongan voices singing at Church, to more hilariously, popular culture from the 1970’s, including TV commercials (including ‘Louie the Fly’ and ending appropriately with “sleep wonderfully warm…with Linda”), to TV themes (‘Petticoat Junction’ and a “multimix” of ‘Happy Days’ and ‘Laverne and Shirley’). This part of the show exemplify that Vika and Linda are true performers, and really, have great comic timing. They even make jingles sound compelling!
What rings through is that these girls from suburban Melbourne, value their family tremendously and had to put up with some racism in their early years . However their love of music is something that was seemingly important to them – and in the 1980’s, Vika had love for Split Enz and Linda for Midnight Oil. With Vika singing a glorious version of ‘I Hope I Never’ and Linda tackling a fantastic rendition of ‘Read About It’.
The story of the show then weaved into their influences including Aretha Franklin, Sister Rosetta Tharpe and Linda Ronstadt. The girls pay due respect to the people that have provided them with opportunity with their careers, including Joe Camilleri, Paul Kelly and Renée Geyer. Paul Kelly continues to be a constant source of inspiration, and even encouraging the girls to write their own songs.
The setlist included songs such ‘Never Let Me Go’, ‘We Started a Fire’, ‘When Will You Fall For Me’ – and impressively, the beautiful ‘The Parting Song’ from their 1996 album Princess Tabu. It is hard to believe that it is 25 years since Vika and Linda released their debut album – maybe a remaster and vinyl release is due?
The girls do generally sing together as a team, however, in recent years have done their own shows, with Vika paying homage to Etta James and Linda doing a show on Willie Nelson. Being the belter she is, Vika did an obligatory and wonderful version of ‘At Last’ (this is where the athletic nature of her voice kicks in), and Linda doing Willie’s “Always on My Mind’ – when Linda sings this song it has the ability to move you to tears, singing with impeccable phrasing, where you know she truly feels what she sings – admittedly, the emotionality of the performance brought me to tears.
The last song of the show was Simon and Garfunkel’s ‘Bridge Over Troubled Water’ – providing a harmonious and emotional end to a fantastic show, where they received a well deserved standing ovation.
What Between Two Shores shows is that Vika and Linda have exceptional voices, are experienced performers, still love singing and remain remarkably grounded. If they are not half-assed with their performances (and they are hard workers, touring extensively), you could argue they are a bit slow when it comes to making their own studio albums – the last being in 2002 – however, as evidenced by the performance of Kasey Chambers’ penned ‘Raise Your Hand’ – a wonderful song delivered in a rousing gospel style, shows there is still hope for that elusive fifth studio album – and with their strong performances of late, this album should be widely anticipated. Fingers crossed!
In summation Between Two Shores was sublime. All hail the Bull sisters!