Live Review: An Evening With Vika & Linda @ Frankston Arts Centre, Melbourne

17 June 2024 | 4:07 pm | Bryget Chrisfield

Shining examples that commitment and perseverance pays off, the Bull sisters just get better with age.

Vika & Linda

Vika & Linda (Credit: Kate Arnott)

Image 1 of 6

Exuberant applause greets Vika & Linda Bull’s arrival on stage alongside long-time collaborator Cameron Bruce, who takes a seat at the piano.

Opener On My Way is flawless, the Bull sisters taking exactly zero time to hit their stride. The audience is charmed from the get-go. Wearing classy matching pastel suits in different colours – pink (Linda) and lemon (Vika) – and vibrant flower hair accessories, Linda opts for snazzy bow-front heels while Vika rocks sneakers. They’ve even shouted themselves matching gold microphones, with Linda revealing that in all their years spent performing the Bull sisters have never previously owned their own mics.    

Vika & Linda are brilliant storytellers, not only through song but also during stage banter. After Linda accidentally welcomes us to Geelong Arts Centre, she expertly circles back to this hiccup later on in the show – “Everything feels like yesterday, that’s why I thought we were in Geelong!” Genius.

For ‘An Evening With Vika & Linda’ they’ve curated a selection of songs and deep cuts from their back catalogue, ranging all the way from 1994 to “the future”. That’s right! We score advance listens of some of their brand new, yet-to-be-recorded material. One of these shiny new songs was written by Perth singer-songwriter Helen Shanahan, with the Bull sisters in mind. Another – That’s How I Pray, a set highlight – was penned about their shared love of swimming and it’s as blissful and rejuvenating as a dip in the sea.

During the Don Walker-penned I Miss You In The Night, we marvel at Vika & Linda’s effortless timing – their ‘t’ sounds landing in perfect unison every single time “night” is sung. While Linda prepares a “bucket of clank” (a tub filled with percussion instruments) to play during the hilarious Paul Kelly (feat. Vika Bull) number, My Man’s Got A Cold, Vika claims her little sister’s “other name” is “The Duchess Of Clank”.

Don't miss a beat with our FREE daily newsletter

Their extensive catalogue is enriched by shared backstories throughout. We feel ALL of the feels – from heartbreak to pure joy and everything in between – and leave feeling as if we’ve gotten to know Vika & Linda more intimately.

Linda explains the sisters learnt how to sing at Tongan church, which went for four hours every Sunday. We’re told that when Mrs. Bull expressed her displeasure over their plans to record a gospel album live in a Brunswick pub (The Cornish Arms), her girls insisted, “We can drink beer and we can love Jesus at the same time!” Linda shines while performing the title track from their resulting Tell The Angels album (2004).

Vika’s seven years spent touring the globe thanks to her star turn in At Last: The Etta James Story is represented by that show’s titular song, also a wedding playlist favourite. While honouring Etta, Vika also makes this classic song her own.   

The story behind Down On The Jetty, which Linda wrote on a boat with Paul Kelly during a camping trip, details parents leaving their young children for the very first time. Similar in theme, Waiting On The Kid – which features on Mark Seymour & The Undertow’s latest album, The Boxer – explores the difficulties of being a touring muso mum and leaving your children behind.

The Bull sisters have three daughters between them and Linda’s been a single mum for many years. They also point out Bruce, an undisputed piano virtuoso, has left his newborn Sunny at home for the first time to accompany them on this tour. Vika’s stirring rendition of Nina Simone’s Sinnerman is further elevated by his urgent, percussive playing.

Post-interval, we score the powerful, Kasey Chambers-penned Raise Your Hand from Vika & Linda’s stunning The Wait album (2021).

Introducing Grandpa’s Song, Vika tells us The Black Sorrows’ percussion player, Michael Barker, handed them a tape of some music he’d written, instructing the girls to go home and come up with some corresponding lyrics. The only help they needed to complete what would become Grandpa’s Song, Vika jests, came courtesy of “the Clifton Hill bottle shop”. Vika’s apology for snubbing her grandpa when her Tongan grandparents visited Australia, this song’s backstory is touching beyond belief. Because she was “really embarrassed” about being half Tongan and half Australian and got teased at school, when Vika’s grandpa rocked up unannounced to collect her from primary school – clad in traditional Tongan finery and looking like Ray Charles, according to Vika – she walked straight past him, mortified, which is something she truly regrets.

I have grown, I now walk alone/ I feel you beside me still guiding me homeI miss you so…” – ouch, our hearts hurt heaps!

The feisty Black Sorrows classic Never Let You Go still works a treat in stripped-back mode and we’ll never tire of Vika & Linda’s showstopping take on Feeling Good, which routinely gives us goosebumps. This song’s opening a cappella section allows the Bull sisters to flex their distinctive vocals to perfection, kind of like a battle round – it’s a tie, obviously. We’re feeling good after this main-set closer, sure, but still want more!

They return for an encore of Sister Rosetta Tharpe’s Strange Things Happening Every Day and You Were Always On My Mind – a song Vika & Linda loved when they were kids. Earlier, Vika unleashed full belter mode while covering another Sister Rosetta Tharpe number.

The LOLs continue when Linda reveals she initially assumed she’d been named after Linda Ronstadt – a family favourite – until her dad corrected her: he actually named her after the electric blanket brand!

Post-show, the audience jumps to their feet, applauding wildly to thank Vika & Linda for bringing their extraordinary talent all the way to Franger and making us forget about the woes of the world for the show's duration.

It may not have always been easy for them to follow their passion and true path, but Vika & Linda were put on this Earth to share their divine instruments. Shining examples that commitment and perseverance pays off, the Bull sisters just get better with age. Drawing from rich life experience, they have plenty more to say. Give these Tongan queens their crowns, already! Long may they show the future generations of aspiring artists how it’s done.