A fair and mild Sunday evening on the Belmont’s outdoor stage served as a perfect setting for the final stop in a monthlong U.S. tour by the Wellington International Ukulele Orchestra, a 10-piece ensemble from New Zealand featuring nine ukulele players and a bassist. Yes, nine ukulele players, dressed in all manner of attention-getting apparel, from colorful spandex to shiny shoulder pads to a self-described “bedspread onesie.”
Playing two sets of about 45 minutes each, the group brought broad smiles to a crowd of a couple hundred that’s likely to grow significantly if and when they make another journey halfway around the globe. Mixing numbers largely obscure to those not from Down Under with a handful of universal classic such as Dolly Parton’s “Jolene” and Paul Simon’s “50 Ways to Leave Your Lover,” they put on an entertaining show that depended equally on musical performances and humorous asides.
Examples of the latter: One member mentioned that you can buy their songs on YouTube — “oh, I mean iTunes,” she corrected. At which point another member apologized for the confusion, explaining that “we only just got the internet in New Zealand.” Some jokes were a bit more risque, such as when they referred to their weekend visit to the University of North Texas and their temptation to pull out a sharpie whenever they passed a “UNT” sign. (“It’s a term of endearment where we’re from,” they assured.)
Musically, while covers such as Bonnie Tyler’s “It’s a Heartache” and Outkast’s “Hey Ya” connected with immediacy, the most rewarding number was a more obscure tune, fellow New Zealander David Kilgour’s “Today Is Gonna Be Mine,” which concluded the show. The indie-pop song translated well to ukulele, but mostly it was carried by the overlapping vocal parts delivered by a 10-voice chorus, floating high into the sky toward a blanket of moon and stars above the Belmont.