Eden Court, Inverness
“They say you play a town twice – once on the way up, and once on the way down. It’s good to be back, Inverness.”
This opening jibe from the Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain’s Leisa Rea – good natured, funny and with just the right tone of self-deprecation – sums up the spirit of this night more than any review could.
Reminiscent of the old concert hall performances in more ways than the presence of the ukulele, the orchestra led the Empire theatre crowd through a repertoire stuffed with classic hits uke’d up.
David Bowie, Talking Heads, Kraftwerk, Clean Bandits and Prokofiev become uneasy bedfellows as the orchestra gleefully strips them out and expertly retools them for their own four-stringed purpose.
But dear heaven does it work. If you don’t find something charming in the idea of somebody rapping the Clean Bandits song Rockabye over a melody that’s been completely reworked for the style of eight ukuleles, there’s something very wrong with you indeed.
Is it gimmicky? Perhaps – but why is gimmicky a bad or undesirable trait in an evening of entertainment? Regardless of the instruments or the intent, the musicianship remains excellent. It takes a great level of talent and skill to rework Prokofiev’s Dance of the Knights into a ukulele song, let alone one that sounds as good as this version does.
The whole thing is held ably together by the sort of concert hall patter that one would hope for – and indeed expect – from a show like this. Wry, dry bantering between the eight musicians, and a litany of puns both great and gleefully groan-inducing all feature.
This was fun, to be frank – an evening of easy entertainment akin to soaking in a bathtub after a long and wearying day. Sometimes that’s just what’s needed – and for the standing ovation from almost every seat in the house as the final chords of closer Heroes rang out, it was more than enough.
What did you think? Comment below or tweet Kyle: @spp_kwalker