Wellington Ukelele Orchestra Gilded Balloon

This show is a real treat. I started smiling as soon as it started and pretty much kept smiling until well after the show. Seven guys and four girls with ten ukuleles, a double bass and an occasional bit of tambourine, banjo and triangle thrown in, play and sing a diverse collection of songs which will surprise and delight you. The opening song is in fact “Afternoon Delight” and the ensemble ukuleles and harmonies give us a great introduction to the pleasures to come. The band are all pretty laidback and eccentric, wearing a variety of weird and wonderful costumes including Hawaian shirts, Wonderwoman outfit and a Rupert Bear tartan onesie. They come over as a group of pals enjoying themselves but they are obviously also accomplished musicians and singers. They quickly established a good rapport with the audience and had us waving our arms and our imaginary lighters at appropriate anthem moments.

There had been a mix up at the venue which meant that a good third of the audience didn’t arrive until after the third song. The band gave them a swift runthrough of what they had missed and did it in such a good natured way that any grumbles from potentially disgruntled customers soon disappeared.

They all took a turn in the spotlight to showcase their individual talent. Nigel’s ukulele riffs on The Smiths “This Charming Man” may not match Johnny Marr’s guitar playing but this version had its own charms. All in all a great mix of songs – their own composition “I Love You Raylene”, a traditional New Zealand song, Bonny Tyler’s “Heartache” (which was sung to an endearingly basic backdrop of a mini glitter ball and some gold foil props) some Tom Petty and Bonnie Raitt, and even rap including final song “Push it” which featured all four well-endowed ladies grinding their stuff on stage.

The Wellington Ukelele Orchestra started off about seven years ago in a café in New Zealand and one of their founding members is Bret McKenzie of Flight of the Conchords fame. They are very well known in their home country and this run will certainly help to get them established on the international scene.

Irene Brownlee