Music Review: Melbourne Ska Orchestra – The Diplomat Tour


Presented by Melbourne Ska Orchestra
Reviewed 21 September 2013

The Melbourne Ska Orchestra (MSO) played a sold out gig on Saturday night at The Gov.

Babylon Burning did a cracking good job of opening. Fronted by Daniel Spencer, the tight septet got the crowd ska-ready, whilst delivering some compelling messages.

The crowd was relaxed and diverse; there were plenty of perfectly coiffed ladies in pretty dresses and fellas adorned in pork pie hats and Fred Perry shirts. There was some serious 2 Tone-ing. I even saw a waxed ‘tache. It was grand to see Adelaidians frock and suit up, a move generally encouraged by the MSO’s vivacious conductor Nicky Bomba. Most wore their dancing shoes, ready for (ska)action.

The 20-odd sharp looking MSO members paraded on stage like they owned it, and own it they did. Nicky Bomba is very persuasive with an infectious energy. When he asked the crowd to get jumping, nobody needed to ask how high. This was the realm of the skanker. Twerkers need not apply.

To coincide with the fiftieth anniversary of ska, the MSO released their self-titled debut album earlier this year. From the album, Get Smart, Lygon Street Meltdown, and my personal favourite, the newly released single The Diplomat were very well received. If the latter tunes are a taste of more original ska to come, stay tuned to MSO; we are in for a treat.

Signature staples of the MSO included The Specials’ Message to Rudi and Madness’s Night Boat To Cairo, both of which saw audience interaction peak.

Special nods to Tony Hicks for the greatest clarinet moves ever in The Golden Wedding (certainly the longest); Lennox Jordan for his steel pan version of Imagine; the ludicrously cool front-men Pat Powell and Steve Montgomery; and Rebecca Ari who floated in like a welcome cool breeze to seduce the eager crowd.

Bomba managed the band in a way that makes multi-skilling look like the most menial of tasks. His passion is obvious but he never got so lost in the music he didn’t know exactly where he was and where he was taking us. After a quick reshuffle, he continued to impress, taking centre stage on the drums. It made me wonder if Bomba, who has both rhythm and music in spades, could possibly ask for anything more.

If Nicky Bomba believes that music is a great unifier, he certainly practices what he preaches. With choreography that may have looked a bit naf if anyone else had attempted it, the dipping and swaying of the brass section just confirmed the first impression that this is a well oiled machine who know how to get a crowd on board.

If an orchestra can be orchestrated, Bomba succeeded. Melbourne Ska Orchestra? You had me at “whay ya yo yo yooo”.

MSO is the big, beautiful, feather-costumed, high heeled, sexpot of bands, with more razzle dazzle than a troupe of Vegas showgirls. They were magnetic, hypnotic, and altogether unreasonably enticing.

If Bomba is the Professor of the sum of the parts – thanks. I just got schooled.

Up-beat me Master.

Reviewed by Gordon Forester

Venue: The Gov. 59 Port Road, Hindmarsh SA 5007
Season: 21 September 2013
Duration: 3 ½ hours

Photo Credit: Kane Hibberd Push



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