As the Melbourne Ska Orchestra marched their way down the middle aisle of the theatre, carrying and playing their instruments and shouting through a megaphone, I knew I was in for a treat. This 18 piece band; brass, percussion, steel drums and keyboard; made their way past me and on to the stage and for an hour, lit up the venue and brought massive amounts of hype and energy to the stage.
No amount of constrictive seating was holding this audience back from showing their appreciation for this fantastic live act.
It didn’t occur to me to notice until after, that it was an hour of original music – none of which I was familiar with – though it was lovely to see some audience members who are clearly fans singing along. Despite this though I don’t think those of us who are new to these guys minded at all. They promised at the start a “world tour in ska” and that’s definitely what we got.
All the familiar features of ska were there, the syncopated rhythms and calypso vibe, but they dipped into so many other styles as well. With touches of latin, the UK punk ska (that we are all maybe more familiar with) and a ton of really impressive jazz improv and scat. They kept it fresh and interesting from start to finish.
Front man and band leader Nicky Bomba is the perfect man for the job. From audience participation – which at one stage included a particularly impressive game of musical statues – to generally just bringing the hype into the room, he had the whole place swinging.
My only complaint, and it's nothing the band won’t themselves know, is that this just wasn’t the right venue for them. We all desperately wanted to get up and join in, but there just wasn't enough aisle to go around. However those who could, did and clearly, no amount of constrictive seating was holding this audience back from showing their appreciation for this fantastic live act. Not to be missed.