The Ukulele is an instrument which is hard to take seriously. In the national consciousness it will always be associated with George Formby, leaning on lamp-posts and cleaning windows.
The Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain embraces the reputation of the instrument whilst, simultaneously, demonstrating it's great versatility. Most of the numbers they perform are done to comic effect; Weetus' Teenage Dirtbag is quite a straight cover version but is nonetheless somewhat incongruous given a backing of seven various Ukuleles, The Sex Pistol's Anarchy is more of a full-on parody.
There are eight members in the group, playing a range of Ukuleles - Soprano, Tenor, Concert and "Bass" - and the act is hung together with a series of corny jokes and exchanges between the band. The quality of the gags may be poor but the quality of the songs is fantastic.
Collectively, the musicianship is excellent with some virtuoso displays. Individually, various members of the band take lead vocals with harmonies provided by the rest. The whole show is imbued with a certain joie de vivre. That's not to say that there's not moments of pathos as well, typified by a version of Johnny Nash's Tears on My Pillow.
By the end of the evening, the audience has been treated to a wide variety of styles of music and of playing the Ukulele. There's even been a nod to George Formby with Cossack version of Leaning on a Lamp-post. The Ukulele may be hard to take seriously but as a musical comedy act the Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain should be.
My highlight of the night, which sent me into fits of the giggles, was their version of Kate Bush's Wuthering Heights in Yorkshire dialect: