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Pure joy: those little words sum up last night’s mighty performance by ukuleleist Jake Shimabakuro, both in the joy the audience experienced in witnessing a master at his craft and the musician’s own joyful exuberance which filled the Cistern. The Hawaii native—who astounded Spoleto audiences in 2009 and was the sleeper hit of the festival—bounded onto the stage with a cheerful “Aloha!” and began the concert with “One Four Three,” a jubilant song showcasing Shimabakuro’s intense chord strumming and delicate finger picking.
Throughout the hour-long performance, the “ukelele hero,” as dubbed by Rolling Stone, deftly interpreted many genres, from his rockin’ composition “Bring Your Adze”—a humorous play on musicians calling their guitars axes—to the Flamenco-stylings of “Let’s Dance” to his bluegrass number “Orange World,” a true representation of the traditional chord progressions that he then deconstructed and interestingly gave a hip hop spin. Covers treated with equal talent and technique included “Hallelujah,” a beautiful tribute to the Leonard Cohen classic; Adele’s “Rolling in the Deep”; Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody”; and George Harrison’s “While My Guitar Gently Weeps,” which brought a standing ovation.
Shimabakuro closed the show with “Missing Three”, a song from his upcoming “ukelele rock” album being produced by the legendary Allan Parsons that utilizes only three of the instruments four strings. A love song lullaby, it was a gorgeous, reflective end to a masterful show. Having played such a diverse lineup with confidence, humor, and awe-inducing skill, Shimabakuro also offered up a refreshing gratitude, thanking the audience for allowing him to do what he loves. The thanks should be to you, Jake. Mahalo, and please come back soon.
Some tickets are still available for Shimabakuro’s final performance tonight at 9 p.m. Get them now. http://spoletousa.org