Review by Bokonon
“While My Guitar Gently Weeps.” Nearly twelve million views and counting. Every ukulele maker in the world owes Jake Shimabukuro a handjob. The 36-year-old cherub-faced phenom returned to the region in April, eager like a puppy to show off his latest disc, Grand Ukulele. Shimabukuro can shred, yes, he can shred, but he’s smart enough not to shred all the time – even if his lighting designer can’t seem to stop shredding the greens, blues and whites during the slow stuff.
At the Hall, Shimabukuro offered a supremely balanced show bent on pleasing the entire spectrum of his considerable fan base. The sold-out crowd got gonzo workouts (the looping Jimi Hendrix-goes-uke bit, “Dragon”); obvious, but oddly brilliant ham (“Bohemian Rhapsody,” proving that Shimabukuro’s true talent, like Geoff Muldaur’s, is as an arranger); and, wonderful, truly beautiful music (the eternal ballad “Blue Roses Falling”). Each had its due weight.
Few major artists come across as giddy as Shimabukuro, but few other players of his caliber have been launched into stratosphere by Youtube. In Troy, he lauded producer Alan Parsons, glowed about his documentary “Life on Four Strings” – slated to air locally on WMHT-TV at 9pm on Friday (May 10) – and played George Harrison’s hit in honor of anyone who ever pushed play. But he also made clear that the ukulele is not just a novelty instrument. After a few tunes, it didn’t really matter instrument what he was playing. He made music, not ukulele.
Greg Haymes’ review at The Times Union
Excerpt from Michael Hochanadel’s review at The Daily Gazette: “Shimabukuro toggled between zippy open-hand strumming, precise finger-picking and thumb-plucking in a virtuoso opening run of ‘Island Fever Blues,’ ‘More Ukulele’ and Adele’s Rolling in the Deep.’ Striking guitar-hero poses, grinning or grimacing, glowing in dramatic lights — which strobed when he went staccato, etching the ceiling with geometric glows — Shimabukuro played either many notes really quickly or slower passages, gracefully shaped; and all of it breathing elegantly. Shimabukuro cited the spontaneous origin of ‘Missing 3’ — he wrote it as an experiment while restringing his uke — then he played perhaps his most serene, unhurried moments. In ‘Ukulele Five-O,’ he revved into riff overdrive at dangerous tempos. After slow ones ‘Blue Roses Falling’ and ‘Fields of Gold’ — with the lights, of course, conveying those tones — brother Bruce brought out his own uke. The brothers had and delivered big fun with the zippy ‘Tokada’ and the vintage surf-rock number ‘Wipeout,’ even echoing its trademark stuttering drum break.”