REVIEW: Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain

What I truly love about UMS is the variety of their performances. This season, we have classical pianists, Indie rockers (as I’m calling James Blake…sorry if that makes anyone mad), traditional Sufi music, and this: an orchestra of ukulele players from England. It was so unlike anything I’ve seen before at UMS. There wasn’t anything to analyze or interpret. Nothing to look at and be like, “Wait…why are there lambs on stage?” It was just exactly what you were expecting: an hour and a half of covers of songs performed on the ukulele. Don’t get me wrong; I like risqué, innovative, renegade material as much as the next person, but it was a nice change to know what was coming.

And it was fun too! Everyone left with a smile on their face. Prior to the performance, audience members were asked to bring their ukuleles and several people did! In the middle of the show, they played Tom Petty’s “American Girl” and uke-playing audience members took up the challenge and played along! It was a really cute way of engaging the audience. And such a great way of utilizing the smallness of the ukulele! It’s such a lap-friendly instrument! I mean, if they had brought a harp orchestra to Ann Arbor, you couldn’t necessarily ask people to bring along their harps to play along mid-show. It was the perfect way of getting the audience involved without making people nervous or annoying those who didn’t want to participate.

One thing that seemed to detract from my personal experience of the show was my age. All the songs were covers and while I did recognize “Pinball Wizard” and a truly fabulous rendition of Lady Gaga’s “Born This Way”, the rest of the songs were from a time before my generation. I understand that UMS audiences tend to be on the older side, so I know there were a lot of people who got more out of the performance than I. Which is fine – I’m happy that they enjoyed the show (and I think they did because oftentimes just after three chords were struck on stage, I’d hear elderly whooping erupt behind me). It was still good music and fun to watch just how awesome all the band members were at the ukulele…I just think I would have liked it even more had I been more familiar with more of the songs.

Great show, lots of fun, and super cute. Glad I went. Going to shop around for a ukulele so I can learn too!