On Monday the 19th of February, also President's Day in the U.S., the master of the ukulele, Jake Shimabukuro, performed at the prestigious Benaroya Hall in Seattle, WA. Jake, along side Dave Preston on guitar and vocals and Nolan Verner on bass, arrived to a blistering cold snap by Seattle standards. But the cold outside couldn't stop the heat inside as the trio performed a two-hour set of music to a very appreciative audience.
Having seen Jake live two times previously, I knew what I was in for, or so I thought. Any musician like myself recognizes other musical talent when they see/hear it. It doesn't matter what genre or what instrument, musicians recognize other quality musicians. Jake has firmly planted himself into a category that is really his to lead in any way he sees fit. Yes, there are other ukulele players out there but Jake's rise to fame has him squarely in front. And knowing Jake, after spending some time with him during my interview, he would be the first person to scoff at such a notion. As an incredibly kind and gracious person, he would never proclaim himself the best or even a master of the ukulele - even if his fan base would say otherwise. Humble and accommodating to his fans - Jake is where many musicians wish they were - in a position to explore new musical and artistic forms of expression.
At 7:30pm, Dave and Nolan walked out on to the bare Benaroya Hall stage to polite applause. Moments later Jake walked out to loud applause as the trio prepared to perform. Having started his solo career in 2001, Jake has a lengthy catalog of releases to pull songs from. His latest being, "The Nashville Sessions", which came out in 2016, the set list spanned much, if not all, of Jake's career.
The audience was treated to a few new tunes as well from Jake's forthcoming record - due to be released later this year. The title track (I believe it was titled, "A Great Day" but don't quote me on that) was an extremely melodic composition - one that instantly stood out to me.
The beauty and challenge of performing in a venue like Benaroya Hall (home to the Seattle Symphony) is that the acoustics are so dialed in, as a musician you have to be on your game, as it will shine a spotlight on any mistakes you make on stage. There really is nothing to cover up a mistake. Either you perform at a high level or you don't. Jake, Dave, and Nolan were spot on the entire night. There is definitely a musical chemistry between the three of them, Dave being the newest musician to join Jake on tour. The interplay and improvisation at times was magical to behold. You can't really manufacture that - it happens when certain musicians work with other musicians. But, once you find it - whoa - the results are amazing.
Jake spoke between songs politely and humorously at times, engaging himself to the audience as he always does. From the mixture of unpleasant tones to the untrained ears of, "Tritone" to the visualistic and cinematic sounds of, "Go For Broke" (dedicated to the men and women of the armed forces, particularly those Japanese Americans that fought during WWII), Jake and the guys played each tune effortlessly, like the professionals that they are.
"Piano Forte", a haunting rendition of, "Hallelujah", as well as a lengthy jam on, "Dragon", complete with looping kept the set moving at an enjoyable pace.
Nolan and Dave exited the stage mid set or so to leave Jake to perform a few songs solo - which was reminiscent of his earlier tours when it was always Jake solo. This was a nice change of focus and it only reinforced just how good Jake is on the ukulele.
Of course there were a few known cover tunes worked into the set including, "Eleanor Rigby" early in the set, "Free Falling", and the main set ender of Jake's arguably most known cover, "While My Guitar Gently Weeps".
The set wasn't over yet as the band returned to perform the (now) audience sing-a-long cover of Queen's, "Bohemian Rhapsody". One fan near me tried to hit that high note before the meaty metallic Brian May guitar riff kicks in - "meeeeeeeeee" - and failed miserably. I laughed good naturedly as did others around me, as it was clear everyone was having a great time. This ended the show on a high note as the set truly flew by. The two hours felt more like an hour - and that my dear readers is always a sign of an amazing event.
This was by far the best of the three performances I had seen from Jake. Partially due to the set list and the length of the show. Partially due to the venue as Benaroya Hall is a spectacular venue for a show of this kind. But most of all due to the musicians on the stage - Jake, with Dave and Nolan, is a keeper. I am eager and intrigued to see where this trio goes next with their musical endeavors. Hopefully they continue to work together and create stellar music and performances like we were privileged to witness in Seattle on Monday evening.
Jake Shimabukuro started everyone's week off right in Seattle with his (and his bands) performance. If you were there, then you're already smiling and nodding your head in agreement with that statement. If you weren't, then perhaps next time you'll be able to make the show and experience an artist at the top of his game - and still climbing.
Special Thanks: Nichole for the credentials - I sincerely appreciate it! Your professionalism and warm approach to getting everything set up highly reflects on how you handle your business as well as the artists you represent like Jake. Thank you so much!
Special Thanks: To Jake, Dave, Nolan, and crew - I have never been more welcomed to cover a show than I was on Monday night. It was much like experiencing the best customer service you can get at a favorite store. I was taken aback by your openness, kindness, and all around good natured-ness before the show.
Welcoming me backstage while I interrupted your meal, offering me food more than once, asking me about myself and showing an interest in why I was there, talking shop about guitarists (who knew Zakk Wylde - who was performing on the same night at the Showbox SoDo - and Dave played together on Zakk's acoustic tour), watching videos snippets of a great guitar player on Jake's phone after the interview was over, etc. I don't overlook or forget those types of things. It showed how classy you guys are but more importantly it showed how great you are as people.
Again, thank you for everything. Safe travels on the rest of the tour and I hope to catch up with you all the next time you're in Seattle. All the best!
Eclectic Arts Video Interview with Jake!
(please turn up the volume on your device)
(Click On Any Photo For A Better Quality Image)
Jake performing LIVE in Seattle!