16 June 2016
Reviewed by Emma Stubbs
If I had to sum the Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain up in one word, it would be “genreblending,” and yes, I’m at least 84% convinced that that is in fact a word. They cover everything from David Bowie, to Frank Sinatra, to The Who, to Stevie Wonder and Matt Monro. And that’s just in one song! (Seriously, if you do nothing else after this review, go on YouTube and listen to their cover of Life on Mars).
I should preface this review by saying that I’m a fan of the Ukes (as I can call them, being a fan and everything,) and this is the fourth time we’ve seen them live. The set they played at the Alhambra in Bradford last night (Thursday) hit all the right notes, with the first half consisting almost entirely of covers I hadn’t heard before, while the second half was like a Greatest Hits tour, almost exactly what you want as a fan. But even if you’ve never heard of them before, there’s something for everyone.
Playing as a septet, the orchestra are always suited up like they’re playing the last night of the Proms, but this isn’t a chaste recital of music. Each song they play has something interesting going on; some small piece of lightheartedness to entertain and broaden the appeal of each piece, and as mentioned above, they cover such a wide variety of music that there’s always a plethora of songs to sing along to. Looking around the auditorium, the audience range from primary school children in one corner to retired couples in the next, all enjoying the set.
You do get the feeling that the group of musicians are a little tired of the jokey anecdotes between each song, as they haven’t changed in numerous years. It might be time to refresh these in the same way as they constantly add new musical material to their repertoire. They are understandably a musical ensemble first and foremost, not a comedy act, but keeping the whole package fresh would cater to ‘the fans’ as well as the first timers.
The Alhambra itself seemed an odd choice to host them, at first. The last few times we’ve seen them they performed at St. George’s Hall, but they proved themselves equal to the task of the larger venue, and the atmosphere in the building showed that they had the audience eating of the palms of their hands. In turn, the venue seemed to be doing its best to make everybody feel welcome, with courteous staff in the beautiful building. In addition, there’s ample parking nearby, with two multistory car parks in the vicinity, and in the evening Jacob’s Well offers a cheap alternative.
If you get a chance to see the Orchestra perform, I urge you to take it. You won’t be disappointed. And if you happen to be sitting on the front row, stage right, you might be taking a little more home with you than you bargained for…
The Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain are currently on tour, for more information and tour dates visit www.ukuleleorchestra.com.
For other shows at the Alhambra Theatre in Bradford visit www.bradford-theatres.co.uk
Alhambra Theatre, Morley Street, Bradford, BD7 1AJ | 01274 432000