TROY — Ukulele and mandolin are not the usual sort of instruments people flock to hear. But when played by virtuoso pickers like Jake Shimabukuro or Sierra Hull — well, that makes all the difference. On Wednesday night, both came to the Troy Savings Bank Music Hall and blew the socks off a large, rambunctious crowd.
It was the first stop on their 10-day tour and the first time they’d joined up together. It was Hull’s hall debut and the return for Shimabukuro, who last played here in 2013. They brought their superb bands to perform many tunes from albums soon to be released: Hull’s “25 Trips” on Feb. 14 and Shimabukuro’s “Trio” at the end of this month. Everything was amped up but not at uncomfortable levels.
Hull, who is based in Nashville, took the first set with her band: Geoff Saunders, acoustic bass; Christian Sedelmyer, fiddle; Mike Seal, electric guitar. Hull herself played mostly mandolin, for which she’s been named Mandolinist of the Year three times, and other guitars.
They began with “Beautifully Out of Place.” It’s a lovely song and as expected the band was tight. Hull has a light soprano voice, sometimes breathy, sometimes with a husky edge and a good range. She prefers a pure tone with little vibrato and delivers in a country/pop style infused with a bit of folk. In the next tune, which was only instrumental, everyone got to show off their techniques. Hull has quick fingers, does a lot of fast strumming.
Songs such as a bluesy “How Long,” a funky, catchy “Middle of the Woods,” and the jazz inflected “The Between” showed a preference to end the song without a resolution. Her solo “Lullaby” done on guitar was, however, sweet and contemplative. More tunes included a rollicking “Poison,” a happy love song “Sunshine” and a fabulous “Weighted Mind” ended her set.
Shimabukuro then took an intense solo set knocking off eight tunes alone from an explosive opener that showed off his extraordinary finger work and using his ukulele percussively to his versatility over a Beatles tune, “And I Love Her,” a pop “Fly Me to the Moon” with the audience humming along, to his famous version of “While My Heart Gently Weeps” (on the Beatles’ “White Album,” written by George Harrison). He was a one-man band, tapping his foot, dancing a bit, crouching, laughing, having fun and charming the crowd. Wild cheers, hoots, big applause erupted.
And he’d only begun what turned into a 90-plus minute set later joined by electric bass Jackson Waldoff and electric guitar Dave Preston, who also sang “When the Masks Come Down.”
Among the tunes they played, all with unrelenting energy, pulsing and hypnotic rhythms, and style were: “1-4-3,” “Wai’alae,” “Ichigo Ichie,” “Red Crystal,” “Summer Rain,” “Twelve,” Pink Floyd’s “Wish You Were Here” and Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody.” Shimabukuro seemed to want to go on and on and the crowd loved every minute.