UKULELE ORCHESTRA OF GREAT BRITAIN
18 SEPTEMBER 1987
EMPRESS OF RUSSIA
For a long time the ukes performed every other Friday at the Empress of Russia in Islington. They used the upstairs room and bar. It was a club, and many people turned up for every concert. This video is from the beginning of that run. At this point they had been performing live for just under a year, and playing at the Empress for about three months.
Given that they would play two sets, with a total performance time of anything up to two hours, it wasn’t possible to film everything. My one and only camera battery would last just under thirty minutes. Sometimes I managed to get a look at the set list, and then choose numbers I liked. More often I would be guided by George’s introductions, although some of these were so cryptic it wasn’t always possible to tell what was coming. Generally I tried to hold back about five minutes of tape to cover the finale, but the camera was so primitive it didn’t have a film counter. I had to look in a little window on the side, and judge how much tape was left on the reel.
The style of presentation was very loose. They were incredibly versatile, and had a huge repertoire. Every concert was different. Each of their music folders was packed with loose sheets of manuscript paper, and copies of lyrics. Things didn’t always run smoothly, and this was part of the fun. In this video I’ve left in a couple of introductions where things don’t go according to plan, to give a flavour of what it was like.
German fans will note that this video contains a rare early performance of Die Forelle (poem by Schubart, music by Schubert) performed in the original language by George, with a flawless accent.
The World Turned Upside Down
No Peace For The Wicked
Every Breath You Take
Born To Be Wild (extract)
Midnight In Moscow (extract)