In a week that’s seemed far too short, it’s nice to take a breath and look back on a moment I got to slow down. There really is no better place to do that than Lizotte’s, especially when the wonderful Jake Shimabukuro is playing for you.
I ordinarily frequent the Kincumber Lizotte’s, but Easter festivities lured me to the Newcastle venue with my parents. There’s a different vibe to the Newcastle venue. It’s still warm, but there’s a little more space to spread out. That means it loses a little of the lounge room feel, but it’s still much more intimate than most venues around. And just like the Central Coast, the food is to die for. I struggled through my generous serve of herb battered fish and chips after a big Easter lunch, but it was too delicious to leave.
There was no support act tonight, perhaps because following Jake would be a tall order. I’d caught some of his performances online, but I really went into this show knowing very little. He joked that expectations are always low when people see someone playing ukulele. His reputation precedes him though. I was expecting greatness, but I didn’t expect to be quite as engaged as I was.
You see, I’ve always been a lyrics girl. Without lyrics to hang on to I wondered whether parts of the night might drag. No chance. Jake relished sharing the stories of the moments that surrounded his original songs, and they allowed us to understand the instrumental pieces better. He’s also such a compelling, dynamic performer. You can feel him, whether he’s strumming hard or playing so softly that you have to strain your ears.
The sounds he gets from a ukulele are incredible. The instrument has a range of just two octaves, yet he somehow makes it sound like so much more. He played it like a mandolin, like a guitar, like a piece of percussion. I couldn’t believe the tones he created.
While his originals were solid, the covers wowed me. I knew I loved his version of “While My Guitar Gently Weeps,” and it was a fitting encore. However I was most impressed by his take on “Bohemian Rhapsody.” It was just so clever, with the ukulele singing all of these incredible parts, from rock to opera.
My expectations weren’t as low as Jake teased that they might be, but they were still exceeded by this incredible musician.
Image source: own photo