City Guide to Edinburgh, Scotland

City Guide to Edinburgh, Scotland

The Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain, Queen's Hall, Review

By Irene Brown - Posted on 08 October 2013

Ukes of GB on tour
Show Details
Queen's Hall
Dave Suich, Hester Goodman, George Hinchliffe, Richie Williams, Kitty Lux, Will Grove-White and Jonty Bankes
Running time: 

The UOGB has landed – and not a shiny space suit in sight, only their own singular brand of elegant musical subversion!

For the last 28 years, the Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain has been entertaining eager audiences with their own unique interpretations of a wide range of musical styles. The current line-up has been together for over 20 years but is reduced to seven members (at least in the Queen’s Hall performance) because of the absence their tallest player, Peter Brooke Turner.

Their music has been used in film, TV, radio, plays and commercials and the Orchestra has played numerous festivals as well as having a string (no pun intended!) of collaborators including Madness, The Ministry of Sound and The British Film Institute. They have enjoyed sell out concerts throughout the world and inspired a global revival of ukulele playing. But this is the real McCoy! The Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain provides top class old fashioned entertainment, is totally in touch with the music scene past and present and include bespoke chat to each audience between tunes.

In between the distribution of wacky gifts to one lucky audience member and discreet displays of wit, puns, repartee and simply great comic patter, the seated sartorially splendid ensemble give virtuoso versions of an eclectic selection of songs and music. Using a range of ukuleles from soprano, concert, tenor, baritone to bass, they strum, hum, whistle, hand jive and tap their way through hits from Prince, Lou Reed, Junior Walker and the All Stars, Kraftwerk, The Who and Chic, not to mention a bit of Bach.

Well known ukulele players of yore, like Marilyn Monroe in the film Some Like it Hot singing Running Wild and Tiny Tim with his hit of the gorgeous foxtrot, Tiptoe through the Tulips are honoured by the Ukes. It would wrong not to feature Leaning on a Lamppost the iconic song of best known British ukulele player of all, George Formby. With typical impishness, they perform it balalaika style complete with suitable Kalinkan whoops throughout.

Favourites like Isaac Hayes’ Shaft, the tumbleweed sounds of the The Good the Bad and the Ugly and the clever of elision of Life on Mars, My Way, For Once in my Life, Born Free and Substitute make welcome appearances. The glorious incongruity of an apparently respectable audience joining in with a chorus of the Sex Pistols’ Anarchy in the UK is at once disconcerting and satisfying. All part of the surreal fun that is the UOGB experience!

From fast pace US blues to a slow and poignant version of Cher’s Bang Bang sung by Kitty Lux, expect the unexpected from this fresh and tireless band of modest musicians who are oozing with talent and polite irreverence.

Like the good Ukes they are, they provided a fine encore for their hungry audience and this time they teased by saying it was a tune from some guy called Jimmy’s memorable concert. Some may have thought of Hendrix but they’d have been wrong. It was Scotland’s own late, great Jimmy Shand they meant and they played out in grand style with his hit signature tune, the Bluebell Polka. Plucking fantastic!

The Edinburgh show marks the end of current UK tour. Tour continues to Europe and US.