Friday, November 15, 2013

06 Nov 13 - Jake Shimabukuro

***sincerest apologies for the lateness of this review***

Believe it or not - it was just a guy and his ukulele rockin' the stage tonight, blogspot readers. It was simplistic as that tonight for SouthSide as she attended this special one-night only performance at Park West (located in the heart of Lincoln Park area). For this reviewer, it was quite unusual and WAY out of the norm for a typical SouthSide On The Town review. However, it was amazing (or unbelievable if you can't wrap your head around the thought of a guy single handedly rockin' any stage with a ukulele in Chicago). Do you want to know something else about this performance? This artist packed the Park West! By the time she arrived for Jake Shimabukuro's performance, it was nearly standing room only. Before you start thinking SouthSide has lost all of her rock marbles for reviewing a particular concert like this. She did have her doubts too, blogspot readers, but she does like covering all aspects of the vast music industry even if it does include a guy and his ukulele. In a nutshell, Jake Shimabukuro's performance made a believer out of this reviewer ...especially after watching him perform Queen's iconic rock ballad Bohemian Rhapsody ...yes, he did - all vocal parts and chords on that tiny ukulele!
Jake Shimabukuro did things on and with his ukulele that SouthSide has never seen anyone else do on stage before. And she wants to get this straight before continuing - it wasn't the usual "let's go Hawaiian hula" music either. This artist wowed as well as mesmerized the entire Park West by playing his instrument with passion ...fiery momentum ...fervor ...romanticism and heart while performing songs off his latest album (produced by Alan Parsons ...yep, that famous engineer who did Pink Floyd's Dark Side Of The Moon and The Beatles' Abbey Road and Let It Be). What truly made this performance very intimate on a personable and friend level between Jake and his audience was the stories he shared in between a few songs the one about how he composed Missing 3 as an acoustic for the ukulele but on the album he's back with a full orchestra (as suggested by Alan Parsons). Tonight, he shared with us the acoustic version to which SouthSide found to be more expressive and romantic compared to the full stringed orchestra version since it was played with the gentlest of all tones ...using only 3 chords. You could literally feel the rhythmic melodies floating from the stage and across the venue, blogspot readers, like you were wrapped inside this particular song's warm blanket. You could tell song after song how much fun Jake was having performing on stage either by his facial expression and/or the way he interacted with those closest to the stage especially when playing his version of Hawaii 5-0 to which he called it Ukulele 5-0. Oh, by the way, Hawaii 5-0 is his favorite television show. He had everyone riding the surf during this one, blogspot readers before feeling the soft petals of Blue Roses Falling (inspired by a friend's grandmother's dream of blue roses) against the backdrop of blue lighting  to aid in the effect for this song. It was heartfelt and touching while giving off the sensation of petals falling all around us ...lyrics for this song would simply ruin the dream-like romanticism or not accurately describe the emotion expressed as Jake played. This was one of many moments throughout Jake Shimabukuro where the entire venue was silent except Jake's ukulele.
Besides covering his own work like Gentle Mandolin (written after the birth of his son to which he dedicated to new parents and parents ...hoping someday his own son will be a Gentleman-dolin), Jake also covered Sting's Fields of Gold as another gentle yet romantic song that you could hear how the ukulele notes turned the original composition into a softer lullaby. Yet, there was a moment when he turned his ukulele into a fierce, electric guitar, blogspot readers, especially during his performance of Dragon - dedicated to all guitar rock heroes like Eddie Van Halen. Speaking of Van Halen - it was his first rock concert which gave him the idea of performing on stage as a rock god of the ukulele. And what a rock god was he, blogspot readers. seriously electrifying the stage with his ukulele as a ukulele at first and then as an electric guitar ...thrilling the crowd with each intense shred of the riffs until concluding in a rock god guitar stance to thunderous applause. Amazing it may sound (without actually seeing firsthand, blogspot readers), his version of Queen's Bohemian Rhapsody was *drum roll* awe-inspiring and Jake performing (one of) his favorite rock songs was the highlight of the show. As SouthSide mentioned earlier in the review, this musician played ALL parts of the iconic song on the ukulele ...even the echo, the harmonizing choral parts and etc ...yep, this guy and his ukulele had the crowd rockin' Wayne and Garth style during the intense head-banging rock bridge. No assistance with any other musician or pre-recorded instrument helping him out. Just him and his ukulele rockin' out this classic Queen song. He was the entire band with a ukulele-sounding gong at the end. If you think that was incredibly amazing, you should have heard Jake playing his instrument like a Spanish flamenco guitar in which this reviewer thought he was going to break a string or two from the way he was excitedly playing the ukulele. Like Ian Anderson being the magical pied piper of the flute, Jake Shimabukuro was the pied piper of the ukulele who never thought he would be touring as a ukulele performer after getting his start in coffee shops and YouTube, blogspot readers. According to Jake, he owes it all to YouTube, before ending his show with a rousing performance of George Harrison's While My Guitar Gently Weeps (another one of his favorite rock songs). Here he took this iconic classic rock song to new heights as well as depths while his ukulele gently wept with the notes melodically rolling off each string strum ...beautifully and passionately.

To be honest, blogspot readers, this concert didn't feel an hour and half had flown by when he concluded. Yet Jake had enough strength for one more for his many fans asking for "one more song" to which he graciously gave them a traditional Hawaiian song, dubbing it as the "Ave Maria" of Hawaii because it's one of the most difficult pieces to learn since it requires 4 strings to play it. However for this occasion, Jake did it with 3 strings, blogspot readers ...again with gentle passion like a love song dedicated to his native state. There wasn't a dry eye in the house...

For more information about Jake Shimabukuro and where he and his ukulele will be performing next, visit

Until next time, support your local scene,

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