I saw Tommy Emmanuel in concert on February 8, 2010 at the Smothers Theater at Pepperdine University in Malibu. Simply put, he is one of the finest musicians in the world, a virtuoso, and in his prime.
I started hearing about Tommy a few years ago and saw one of his concerts, whereupon I became hooked on him and his music. I’m fortunate to know him, and he is first class all the way, a consummate professional, and a gentleman, managed by the professional, diplomatic, and organized Gina Mendello. McCabes is one of the top small venues in Los Angeles, which was the scene of my first encounter with Tommy, who has now vaulted from 125 seats to 500 at Pepperdine, with two sold-out engagements.
Lively, energetic, charming, amusing, way beyond technically proficient to — “can you believe what he just played” — are a few of the attributes of Mr. Emmanuel. It’s him, alone, non-stop for two hours and one is never bored. The musical variety is broad, from “Over the Rainbow” to Beatles to originals, to the sounds of the Australian Bush. I kid you not, he duplicates the howl of the land with screeches and rhythmic drumming with the help of special effects he’s incorporated into his guitar. There you are in the midst of an Aboriginal ceremony.
He’s intriguing, in a special class, as extraordinary as a Marcel Marceau, who can hold attention, which is why the audience is so adoring. He earned the three standing ovations.
Tommy Emmanuel is in the same league as his heroes: Chet Atkins, Joe Pass,Django Reinhart, Wes Montgomery, Les Paul, and Merle Travis, to whom to which he pays musical tribute in his concerts, but he’s his own stylist, with a unique approach to the intricate fingering, finger-picking and lightning-fast runs up and down the fret board, which at times astonish. Atkins and he made record together, which alone puts Tommy in the legendary class, as Atkins is the master of country guitar and only recorded with peers. Atkins awarded him the status of Certified Guitar Player, which he shares with Jerry Reed, Steve Wariner and John Knowles.
Tommy is a major star Down Under and very popular in Europe and the upward trajectory and ultimate conquering of North America by him is inevitable.
It is so rare to see talent of this quality, breadth, and skill who also delivers in a melodic fashion that pleases all musical palates in such a variety of styles. Oh, and he’s witty and engaging when not playing, so the show rolls along smoothly when it’s time for Tommy and the audience to catch a collective breath.
You owe it to yourself to investigate and become entranced by Tommy, champion melody maker, a human Wonders of the World. Talent, hard-work and discipline are necessary elements for anyone rising to the top of a profession or discipline. They are clearly evident in Mr. Emmanuel, along with the love of what he does and of music, of accomplishment, of perfecting his craft. It all comes together, resulting in an experience that resonates and inspires us to do our best.