That’s entertainment!

That’s entertainment!

I don’t know about you, but I’m not really “entertained” that often. Sure, I have oodles of MP3s loaded in iTunes and I can stream just about any movie right on my iPad. But, despite the musician or the actors, those things often leave me feeling a bit “blah” and lifeless.

Contrast that with a live performance by an ukulele player whose passion is charming an audience and you have an evening that is real entertainment. That’s exactly what Ralph Shaw provided to a lucky group of folks on May 29 in nearby Chico (California).

Ralph journeyed through our section of the world as part of his “Love and Laughter” tour. The two new CDs (yes, one is “Love” and the other, “Laughter”) are delightful to listen to—but tons better is being entertained by Ralph for an entire evening.

I was even luckier—Ralph and his lovely wife, Kathryn, were staying at our home for the night (gee, we rated higher than the local Residence Inn! Well, I know we’re cheaper…) so my fun began in the late afternoon when we broke bread at the uber-popular Sierra Nevada Taproom Restaurant before heading over to the church where Ralph was teaching a workshop then offering a concert.

Ralph packed the workshop (“Infinite Strums”) with playing techniques, real-world examples and so much information that participants might have been left reeling—if not for the humor and very approachable teaching manner Ralph specializes in. Go ahead and just ask me about “ghost strums.” I’ve nailed ‘em now!

The concert, though, is where Ralph’s innate sense of showmanship and entertaining sparkled like sequins on black velvet. But not that kind of showmanship (you know, where, as an audience member, you feel as if you’re just filling a seat and providing ticket income). That’s not it at all. On this special evening, Ralph truly entertained us.

From his stories between songs (many of those songs were Ralph originals) to his playing, Ralph delighted the audience. I looked around and saw others, leaning forward, seemingly oblivious to the wooden seats on the folding chairs. And I watched people smile.

For over an hour, Ralph took us with him on a journey to new music and a place far from those hard chairs. He pulled us near to him with superlative playing but, even better, with his full attention. Not once in the evening did he lose an audience member—from tweens to folks in their 70s. At the end, our hands were warmer than the night’s summer air from clapping. We looked around at each other and knew we’d shared something special and vital and pretty rare these days.

It was much more than a diversion. It was pure pleasure. Now that’s entertainment.