The Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain gave a large crowd of vocal, rowdy fans a rip-roaring good time Friday night in its debut at the Troy Savings Bank Music Hall.
The seven-member group, which included one woman, is celebrating “30 plucking years” of success, which makes it more than just a novelty act.
This concert was part of its third U.S. tour this year, said founder George Hinchliffe.
People who never thought of ukulele as anything other than what a tourist would hear if they visited Wakiki Beach, would be amazed by the kinetic energy this group creates when they madly strum a tune.
And, it could safely be said, no one strums in such tight ensemble and great harmony as this orchestra. Yes, harmony, as they use ukuleles that range from a tiny sopranino through to a bass ukulele.
When you add musicians who can also sing a rock tune, blues, pop number, or funky folk melody with style, and each adds witty asides that bring much laughter, then you have a group audiences line up to hear.
The crowd was all abuzz before the orchestra even hit the stage. For this show, the hall added a color light show that changed from gold to blues to hot pink as a background.
The players sat in front of their music stands each with a mic and facing the audience.
The group opened with a peppy tune from the 1915 San Francisco Expo, followed by a jazzy “You Don’t Have to Be Rich to Be My Girl.” The crowd hooted, whistled and clapped loudly after every tune.
There was a spooky slow tune with a few effects that became a Spanish uptempo, a rockish “Rock and Roll if you Feel,” an a cappella sea chanty, and Leisa Rea singing a punky, cool “Valerie” by Amy Winehouse.
Other tunes included a funky Swedish tune, “Hot Lips,” a fast and furious “Limehouse Blues,” an instrumental that sounded like an Ennio Morricone creation, a 1970s disco “Go Wash,” a driving “We’ve Come Far Together” and “Born This Way,” and the final, “Freak Out.”
Bass ukist Jonty Bankes also showed off his virtuosic whistling skills in the Badinere from Bach’s Suite for Flute, and young Will Brown won a hand-made ukulele.
After loud applause, encores were “Should I Stay or Should I Go” and the theme song from “The Beverly Hillbillies.”
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