Grand Old Uke of York

There’s a lot wrong with the world at the moment, but I reckon if you gave everyone a ukulele then you could go a long way to curing all that’s troubling.

If this all sounds chaotic, that’s because it is, but in a good way.

It's that sense of community spirit that pulls together an audience to witness nearly two hours of entertaining uke-inspired fun in The White Rose Rotunda. It was packed-out to see the local favourites live up to their pre-show billing as one of the picks of the festival.

The “Titans of Tweed” walk out to Europe’s ‘The Final Countdown’ and that sets the tone for the night. They open with a “traditional ukulele folk number”, ‘I Predict A Riot’ by the Kaiser Chiefs before mining a collection of songs from a number of decades, but predominantly from the Britpop era of the 90s. Classics from Oasis, Blur, Pulp, The Beatles, Stereophonics, Prince, Bryan Adams and even Steppenwolf are repurposed for the thirteen-strong orchestra.

It’s a night that also encompasses bingo, as members of the audience are given a card to tick off each song in the first half of the set. It’s the only disappointment of the night, as I thought that I had won. Seemingly, so did all the other audience members.

There was even a race around the venue involving the two sound guys during their take on The Spencer Davis Group’s ‘Keep on Running’.

Bonnie Tyler’s ‘Holding Out For A Hero’ sees Tim from the back row of the Ukes disappearing, to return in a superhero outfit as Yorkshire’s very own superhero: Flat Cap Man

Even local celebrity Martin Barass was summoned from the audience to get involved to launch beach balls during ‘Great Balls of Fire’.

If this all sounds chaotic, that’s because it is, but in a good way. Watching the Grand Old Uke of York is no passive experience for the audience. You are expected to get involved. While the chaos reigns, the band carries on. There is infectiousness about the way that the orchestra perform. If you took away all the theatricality, you would still have a very talented group of musicians, but it is the putting on a show makes nights in their presence all the more compelling.

Given the logistics of the orchestra of that size they don’t go off for a deserved encore, but stay on for a blast through Free’s ‘Alright Now’ to finish off a two-hour set that disappeared in the blink of an eye.  

Reviews by Paul Clark

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Performances

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The Blurb

The fourteen-piece ukulele collective began playing together over 5 years ago – their live performances are both humorous and highly entertaining.

Having featured in a Toyota advert; performed live to millions for the Tour de France Grand Depart at Leeds Arena.

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