Saturday, February 11, 2006

Tommy Emmanuel Concert

Though this is by no means a review, I attended a concert in Fort Worth last night that’s worth at least a mention-and-a-half.

A buddy and I drove west to Bass Hall Friday night to check out a guitar virtuoso named Tommy Emmanuel, who, I’ll be honest, I wasn’t familiar at all with before the show. I basically agreed to go for the sake of getting out of the house more than anything else. I’m really glad I did.

First off, the show wasn’t exactly in Bass Hall, which is typically reserved for orchestras and members of the high-falootin’ set. It was next door in a Bass Hall annex building. That didn’t turn out to be an issue because the sound was good and our seats (general admission) were fine.

The show opened with a Canadian singer/songwriter named Tracy Rice. She’s got quite a voice and an earnest delivery, and writes a nice song, too. She’s clearly on the front end of her career so there’s not a whole lot of information out there about her. She has one independent CD called Out of the Light, which she sold herself at a table in the lobby before and after the show. She would be someone to watch out for if you’re into the Shawn Colvin or Kim Richey sound.

And then came Emmanuel. For those like me who aren’t familiar, Tommy Emmanuel is considered one of the greatest living guitar players in the world (really, it says so on his website!). The Australian Emmanuel is one of three people ever given Chet Atkins’ “Certified Guitar Player” status. Like the late Atkins, Emmanuel is a finger picker, which is sort of like playing a guitar like a piano. Each finger is doing something different. Strumming is not on the menu.

I am a total guitar hack. I don’t even know if “hack” is the correct term for what I am. I’m truly worse than that. But Emmanuel is a total freak. This guy does things on a guitar that I would never have thought to do. It was amazing. From playing three guitar parts at the same time to using his guitar as a percussive instrument, he completely blew the room away with his precision skill. It was so remarkable that after a while I found myself thinking, “Okay, I get it. He’s awesome. Can we go now?”

It’s not that I didn’t enjoy it. I really did and I’m glad I went. But, I suspect you have to be a total guitar geek to get really into it. And that’s really what I wanted to say. I recognize his proficiency and expertise with the instrument. But, there’s a point when it takes more than technical skill to hold my interest.

For me, the execution isn’t as important as the planning when it comes to music. Bob Dylan is my favorite example of this.

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