The Thin White Ukes prove that ukuleles can, and do, rock and rock hard in The Other Songs of David Bowie.
By Narelle Wood
The combination of David Bowie and ukuleles does not seem like it should work, after all the ukulele is most commonly known for its island sounds or as a kid’s instrument. The Thin White Ukes prove that this is anything but the case; ukuleles can, and do, rock and rock hard.
The three-piece ukulele ensemble consisting of Betty France (soprano uke), Michael Dwyer (tenor uke) and Robert Stephens (baritone uke) have put together a playlist of some of Bowie’s lesser known hits with some old familiar favourites thrown in, including Moonage dream, Slip away, Andy Warhol, Fame and Space Odyssey. One of the things that stood out in this performance was how their arrangements highlighted the intricate rhythms and chord progressions of Bowie’s music, reminding me what a musical genius Bowie was, how hard his music is to play and demonstrating just how talented these ukulele players actually are.
The hour show was pure music, with no additional storylines or gimmicks, only a couple of lightning bolts, a silver jumpsuit and some pretty captivating performance skills from all three band members, but especially France. The Butterfly Club is a small venue but you definitely get the feeling that France could hold an audience no matter what the venue size.
It is really hard to pick a favourite moment of the show, I would have been quite happy – along with most of the audience it seems – to sit there for at least another hour. In saying that I was really quite taken with the performances of both Slip away and I’m Afraid of Americans: the combination of the songs, the arrangements, performance and ukuleles were perfect.
There is so much to like about this show and it is safe to say that I will be seeking out all The Thin White Uke shows in the future. I never got to see Bowie perform live, but this may be the next best thing.
The Other Songs of David Bowie plays at The Butterfly Club until 4 March. Tickets can be purchased online and by calling the box office on 03 9663 8107.