Sunday, September 25, 2011

Anarchy in the Ukelele

I went to see The Ukelele Orchestra of Great Britain last night.

It would be easy to dismiss them as a novelty act but they are far from it. These are real and talented musicians who obviously love their instruments. It's interesting to see that the ukelele comes in several forms (soprano, tenor, concert and others) and one of which, it has to be said, sounds and looks remarkably like an acoustic guitar disguising an electric bass which they called a bass ukelele.

They create brilliant and complex arrangements of mostly well known tunes, add some humour, some singing, some good old British eccentricity and just put on a great show.

I've never heard a better cover version of Anarchy in the UK by The Sex Pistols, as rearranged for eight ukeleles (or possibly seven ukeleles and an electric bass). They also did Life on Mars by David Bowie, Teenage Dirtbag, Le Freak by Chic, Pinball Wizard, Teenage Kicks, Smells like Teen Spirit, as well as some classical rearrangements. They did one piece by Saint-Saƫns which was quite beautiful but I cannot find it online.

They've been going for 26 years and have toured the world so, as I said, this is no novelty act. One of the pleasures of watching them is the thirty or so seconds at the start of each piece where you just can't quite place the tune they're about to play and then the audience somehow collectively recognises it and everyone in the room smiles and laughs.

Check out their version of the spaghetti western classic, The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly, complete with vocal harmonising, which they also performed last night. Listen all the way through and trust me, you will be singing along by the end of it.

4 comments:

Terra Shield said...

Oh wow. They are SO cool.

nursemyra said...

Excellent Nick! And I love your title

Nota Bene said...

Two of my favourite songs...would love to hear them ukeleled!

King of Scurf said...

Terra: They're awfully good aren't they.

nursemyra: I confess - this is the name of one of their albums.

NB: Most of their recordings are on YouTube - some of it is distinctly sub-bootleg quality though.