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Jake Shimabukuro: The Jimi Hendrix of the ukulele

Jake Shimabukuro in concert


Jake Shimabukuro brought his high-powered one-man show to the historic Rialto theatre for the third time on February 20, 2014. This performance was entirely different than the previous Rialto performances. There was new lighting, different ukuleles, and some new songs. That is the short story. Here’s the rest of the story.

Jake Shimabukuro at the Rialto Theatre in Tucson, AZ, February 20, 2014-slide0
©Mary F. Andrews

Mr. Shimabukuro, born in Hawaii, is a 38-year-old ukulele master who started playing ukulele at the age of four. His solo career exploded in 2006 when a fan posted a video of him playing George Harrison’s “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” without his knowledge. That video became one of the first viral videos on that site and Jake became an international star. He presently records for Hitchhike Records.

The concert began with a song penned by Jake called “Trapt”. He held the ukulele close to his heart like a newborn baby and he extracted notes that one could never imagine could be derived from a four-string “guitar”. He moved freely on the stage feeling the music as much as the audience.

Jake greeted the energetic crowd, “Hello Tucson! So great to be back here”. This is one of my favorite places to come. Thanks for packing the house tonight. We have a brand new show. We’re calling it the UKE nations tour. We are excited to be back. Was anyone here last year?” The crowd roared. From there, he introduced his bass player, Rich Glass, who accompanied Jake on a few songs and then disappeared until the end of the concert.

The first half of the show consisted of Jake’s own compositions while the rest of the show consisted of several of his famous cover songs. His interpretation of the songs was nothing short of brilliant. There were many “pin-drop” moments during the performance. Mr. Shimabukuro’s passion, joy and “guitar” wizardry were something to behold and the audience never wanted it to end.

Shimabukuro prefaced many of the songs with tidbits of information about his life and his compositions. Jake spoke to the audience about the birth of his son a year and a half ago. How he is growing up so fast and he is “just loving watching him grow”. He has one more stop in Scottsdale before he can spend some time with his family. “But tonight, we are in Tucson and we are here to have a good time!” He proceeded to introduce the next song as a song he wrote about his son called “Gentle Mandolin”.

One of the concert highlights was “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” at the end of the show. Rich Glass returned to the stage for this one and it was magic. The two musicians played with a symbiosis that is rarely achieved by artists. The result was a standing ovation by all in attendance. The reward was the final song, Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah”. For a complete set list, please click here.

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