June 23, 2012
If you haven't seen and heard him, do yourself a huge favor and check him out - in concert, on record, on youtube, on spotify, on his website (tommyemmanuel.com) - you'll be glad you did. And if you have seen and heard him, then you already know what I mean when I say - does it get any better than this?
An hour ago I left the venue where he played tonight, and I'm still in an altered state. He played, all by himself, for almost three hours, and his range of playing techniques defies any categorization - he simply can do it all and then some. Musically his repertoire ranges from 3-chord country burners to richly reharmonized ballads, and anything in between. His beat is relentless, he swings hard no matter the style or tune, and he sings the occasional song, to good effect. But most importantly, every note counts, with definition and clarity, and the notes come with a huge variety of tonal nuances, always expressive and very musical.
His stage persona of a guy who has more fun than is legal is infectious - he's so into it when he plays that one forgets how incredibly virtuosic his playing is. His wry sense of humor adds to the illusion that it's easier than it looks. The man works incredibly hard, physically and I'm sure mentally, and yet - there's no towel in sight, he never even wipes his brow.
The following conversation snippet says it all - overheard from two audience members at intermission:
"I wonder how many people here tonight are guitar players?"
"Probably 80% or more, but if he keeps playing this way, half of them will go home and decide to give it up. There could be a whole lot of beginning drummers in Denver as of tomorrow..."