Review and Photos by Scott Preston
The ukulele is making a major comeback, and I had the pleasure to see one of it’s major players, Jake Shimabukuro, this past Thursday night at The 20th Century Theater here in Cincinnati, OH. Like many others who have heard of Jake, probably have seen his famous version of “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” on Youtube which brought him a great deal of attention and allowed him to bring his modern style of playing the ukulele to the world at large. Aside from the unique aspect of seeing a solo ukulele player perform is that every person in the theater was silent while he was playing. It wasn’t your typical bar concert where you can hear people talking and beer bottles breaking. I rarely get to see a concert in this type of setting and it just shows you how much respect Jake has earned in such a short period of time.
I found the entire show very engaging to the point where you didn’t want to leave your seat, being afraid you might miss something. What I also enjoy about Jake’s show is that he takes the time to talk to the audience and tell interesting stories and the history behind the songs that he plays. I was very glad to see his version of “While My Guitar Gently Weeps”, along with his take on another Beatles tune “In My Life”. He had a great story about playing the song at a high profile event in England. He did a duet with Bette Midler on vocals and himself on the ukulele. He then told us how he was also on the same bill with Miley Cyrus, Lady Gaga and then was fortunate enough to have met the Queen of England in the receiving line after the show along with all the other artists. I got the impression he was still in shock that something like that actually happened to him, which I think shows how humble he still remains even after all the attention. Being from Hawaii he also has a song on the Hawaii 5-0 soundtrack called, Ukulele 5-0, which he was very happy to perform for the crowd. One of the real highlights for me was seeing him perform his song “Cherry Blossom”, a song based on the sound of the 13 string Japanese instrument, koto. Jake even gave us further background on the koto, telling us it was originally played for members of the Imperial Court in ancient Japan. The challenge he told us was making the sound of a 4 string ukulele sound like a 13 string koto. But he was able to pull it off with very little effort and left the audience speechless.