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Review: Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain, Grand Opera House, York
MENTION the ukulele to 95 per cent of the public, and you’ll hear the same old, tired George Formby impressions. But as the five per cent will tell you, the instrument is making a comeback, with even Pearl Jam’s Eddie Vedder releasing an album of pure uke tracks.
Spearheading the revolution are the Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain, the eight-piece band who have played sell-out shows around the world.
Taking to the stage in North Yorkshire, they proceed to delight a packed house with unusual, surprising and charming interpretations of all kinds of material you wouldn’t expect to hear on four-stringed acoustic instruments.
Highlights included storming covers of Talking Heads’ Psycho Killer, Black Sabbath’s Paranoid, and an absolutely delightful, Hawaiian lullaby version of Anarchy In The UK, playfully retitled Anarchy In The Ukulele.
Far from a novelty group though, the technical skills on show are impressive, particularly on a semi-classical encore and while each of the members are vocally suited to different tracks, their coming together to create clever recreations of Ennio Morricone’s The Good The Bad And The Ugly score are brilliant.
With a full set and two encores, demanded by thunderous stomping of feet and applause, the orchestra know their audience and how to please, and you get the impression that even if the group weren’t facing a sold-out house, the quirky octet would still be performing together, either in their living rooms or at local pubs, to the adoration of those in the know.
Put simply, if you’re one of the 95 per cent, check them out. If you’re not, you don’t need us to tell you how good they are.