Vika and Linda Bull
The Tivoli 14.04.23
Part way through the 2020 Bee Gees documentary, How Can You Mend a Broken Heart, Noel Gallagher lays bare one of the great truths of rock ‘n’ roll: you can walk into a music shop and buy a drum kit or a guitar, but money can’t buy the magic that is siblings singing.
A sublime case in point is Vika and Linda Bull who are – like The Bee Gees – an Australian national treasure.
Vika and Linda are currently travelling the country as part of the Red Hot Summer Tour, jumping off on occasion to play their own headliner gigs.
Backed by their four-piece band The Bullettes, the pair played to a full house at The Tivoli in Brisbane with a setlist that leaned heavily on 2021’s The Wait and went right back to their self-titled debut from 1994.
The show opened with a reading of Paul Kelly’s “What You Want”, and Kelly’s songwriting features strongly in the Bull Sisters’ narrative. Later they played “Be Careful What You Pray For”, while one of the jaw dropping moments of the night came when Kelly’s “If I Could Start Today Again” was performed with Vika out front.
Throughout the night the sisters sung together and alone. They traded harmonies and swapped lead lines. Both have a degree in how to tell a good anecdote and the night was dotted with heartfelt stories about the music and the family that got them here.
“Grandpa’s Song” is a generous insight into their lives as Tongan/Australian kids: looking back and not knowing quite where they stood in the cultural divide.
The song is delivered as an apology and provided the most revealing and powerful moment of the night. Equally impressive was when Linda Bull took us behind the curtain and explained how she and Kelly co-wrote “Down On the Jetty” while on a camping trip in the Kimberleys; if ever there was a scene from an unmade Ray Lawrence film, this was it.
While the show provided plenty of lump in the throat moments, what set the audience on fire were the stompers, in particular Chris Cheney’s “Lover Don’t Keep Me Waiting”, “Feeling Good” (popularised by Nina Simone), and a throwback to their time with The Black Sorrows, “Never Let Me Go”.
The room was on their feet as the duo returned for a well deserved encore. They performed the aforementioned “Down On the Jetty” followed by the greatest Australian paean to unrequited love in thirty years, the Mark Seymour penned “When Will You Fall for Me”.
It was a magic moment, the kind Noel Gallagher alluded to without ever possibly hearing these mercurial voices. Both women always reach for something special, investing emotionally in the lyric that, almost in spite of the subject matter, delivers some kind of sonic sugar rush to the senses. Vika and Linda really can make bad love feel that good.
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