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Tommy Emmanuel

Last night I was treated to something really special. A friend of mine took me to see the noted guitarist, Tommy Emmanuel.

Now, right off the bat some of you are, no doubt, mouthing the words, “Tommy who?” That’s just because you haven’t lived, yet. So allow me to enlighten you. Tommy is perhaps the finest concert fingerstyle acoustic guitarist on the planet. Yes, I know…everyone talks in glowing terms about their guitar heroes. But this is different. In this case, my view is the objective reality of the universe.

Anyway, I knew of Tommy only through audio recordings and videos. So, expectations were high as my friend and I made our way to the Ogle Center at I.U.S., where Tommy was to perform. I knew I was going to…

Last night I was treated to something really special. A friend of mine took me to see the noted guitarist, Tommy Emmanuel.

Now, right off the bat some of you are, no doubt, mouthing the words, “Tommy who?” That’s just because you haven’t lived, yet. So allow me to enlighten you. Tommy is perhaps the finest concert fingerstyle acoustic guitarist on the planet. Yes, I know…everyone talks in glowing terms about their guitar heroes. But this is different. In this case, my view is the objective reality of the universe.

Anyway, I knew of Tommy only through audio recordings and videos. So, expectations were high as my friend and I made our way to the Ogle Center at I.U.S., where Tommy was to perform. I knew I was going to be in for a treat.

But wait; it gets better. Before the show I had the distinguished privilege of meeting Tommy in person backstage. I was too star struck to say much more to Tommy than, “Would you autograph this photo?” and “Could I get you to pose with me for a picture?” All of which Tommy was more than happy to do with a smile and a handshake.


Now on with the show…

Like I said, I knew I was in for a treat, but nothing could have prepared me for what I was about to experience. In order to describe it, I need to tell you a bit about one of Tommy’s big early influences. Most people who have any familiarity with Tommy, know of the influence Chet Atkins had on his playing. And those who know that, also know what a master of fingerstyle guitar Chet was. How does that translate to Tommy? Well…try Imagining Chet Atkins on steroids. That’s Tommy Emmanuel. I never knew the sounds which could be coaxed (and beaten) out of an acoustic guitar until last night.Tommy attacks the guitar with a perfectly balanced mix of fire and finesse. All of this is done with flawless technique. Yet, Tommy’s raw edge remains intact.

Equally amazing, is his total command of the instrument and his uncanny ability to produce…(how does one say it?) an acoustic symphony, every time he touches the strings. Magic is what it was. Ear candy…truth, and beauty…all wrapped up into a kind of controlled chaos that swept you up in its power and magnificence.

Another thing which really struck me about Tommy’s performance was his playful demeanor. You can tell he really hasn’t lost his wonder at the guitar. In an era where musicians are notoriously pouty, grimmacing, and full of youthful angst, Tommy displays a childlike quality in his approach to playing, which is refreshing and a joy to watch. He’s just having fun and not taking himself too seriously. And all us “serious” guitar players would do well to follow Tommy’s lead…pun intended.

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