UNION CHAPEL 24th May 2018
If Hugh Jackman thinks that he's The Greatest (Australian) Showman, he has another thing coming. Tommy Emmanuel bursts onto the stage of the Union Chapel like a rock star. Dressed in a fancy shirt (I'm pretty sure guitarists have an official uniform of patterned shirts) he greets the sold-out crowd with an upbeat “g'evening London” before picking up his acoustic guitar and playing with the ferocity of a bushfire for the next two hours. If anybody is under the impression that guitar music is stuffy, sedate and dull, they have obviously never been to a Tommy Emmanuel show. His performances are as much about visuals as they are the technique. He has the banter and jokey stage craft off to as much a fine art as his playing – and this is the man who makes 'we are not worthy' Guitar Gods look like mere mortals.
For guitar enthusiasts, this must be like watching acoustic porn. The gasps and stamps of appreciation during every song try to mask their stifled orgasms at every hammer on and pull off. As Tommy races around the fretboard at the speed of sound, creating driving rhythms and setting up beats without the use of a loop pedal, the rest of us can only marvel at his skill and wish that maybe in the next life we can come back as his plectrum.
His latest album Accomplice One features a Who's Who of musicians and guitarists. Tommy gives us some of the tracks from the album tonight, even though he is flying solo. Classical Gas, Blood Brother and a nod to his homeland with Waltzing Matilda all feature along with his most successful Angelina (written for his daughter, who was in the audience). There's a real cross-section of musical styles from jazz to polka and even a Beatles medley.
Although his percussion solo - where he uses a drum brush against the
microphone and his guitar like a Cajon - is worth the ticket price alone. Of course, it's probably on YouTube (isn't everything these days) but seeing Tommy up close, performing effortlessly, masterfully, is something that's best experienced live.