Guitar virtuoso Tommy Emmanuel entertains an awe-struck Thalia Hall for the first of a two-night engagement. 

Despite the major blizzard and freezing temperatures which have taken hold of Chicago, some things deserve your attention and make venturing outside worthwhile. Tonight is most definitely one of those nights. Thalia Hall was full, with the audience all seated ready for the first act of the night to take to the stage. On a night like this, you would expect people waiting until the very last minute to turn up to a show, but tonight everyone is out in force for when Rodney Crowell and Eamon McLoughlin walk out. 

The pair entertain the perfectly silent audience with beautiful imagery in Crowell’ lyrics and an almost angelic accompaniment of Crowell’s vintage Gibson and McLoughlin’s violin. As the crowd sits transfixed on their performance, it unfortunately seems like no time at all has passed before Crowell is introducing, as he called him, “the wizard from Down Under.”

The term “virtuoso” is often banded around these days in reference to various guitarists, however, it feels that the word could have been invented purely to describe Tommy Emmanuel. Afterall, how many people can say that they got their first guitar at just 4 years of age, and became a professional guitarist by the meager age of 6 years old?! It would be easy to think that background was a fiction. That is until you witness a performance like this which is, quite frankly, unbelievable. Some people are born with innate talent, and Emmanuel was clearly born with an abundance of it. However, talent alone is never enough, and there is clearly a huge amount of hard work and dedication that has been put into perfecting his fingerstyle technique. It is understandable how he is one of the very few to receive his hero, Chet Atkin’s “Certified Guitar Player” award. 

 The setlist for the night was compiled of an array of original Emmanuel songs, as well as many hits by other artists that are highly recognizable. His Beatles medley grabbed the attention of the audience as he ran through various songs from their catalog, including “When I’m 64”, “Day Tripper” and “Here Comes the Sun.” His method of playing the bass line, along with chords and melodies at the same time, makes you feel like there is a three or four piece band on the stage entertaining you.

Emmanuel’s latest album, Accomplice One, was released last month and has guests performances from Mark Knopfler, Jason Isbell, JD Simo and opening artist, Rodney Crowell, to name just a few. Describing the moment he and Knopfler recorded their song together, Emmanuel told the story of how they recorded it in one take, ate lunch while it was being mastered, after which he was handed a fully finished copy, all within an hour. 

A staple of his set is his rendition of “Classical Gas,” and tonight was no exception. This is a complicated piece of music to master in the first place, but to perform it live and at the incredible speed that he does is nothing less than astounding. How there isn’t actually smoke coming off those strings is a wonder. 

With such a varied setlist, it’s difficult to pick out favorites. “Guitar Boogie” was an energetic and fun number, whilst the guitar harmonics make his rendition of “Over The Rainbow” almost sound like it is being played on a harp. 

Emmanuel jokes that he thinks he played all the notes or least the ones that he likes, however, there is no doubt that he played every last note with the precision he intended. 

Rounding out night one, Emmanuel invites McLoughlin back on the stage to accompany him by playing Clive Carroll’s part for “Keepin’ It Reel.” It is impressive to hear the two playing the traditional Irish music side by side. Next up, Crowell joins them on stage to perform one Crowell composition along with “Looking Forward To The Past” upon which the two collaborated for Emmanuel’s new album.

With tour dates throughout the year, you will not regret checking this one out should they roll into your town, so check out the upcoming dates here.

Tommy Emmanuel
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Rodney Crowell
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Thalia Hall
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Event Date: 10-FEB-2018

About The Author

Kirstine moved from the UK to Chicago in 2011, and has fallen in love with the city and its music scene. She enjoys combining her two biggest passions – music and photography. If there is a band with a guitar playing, chances are she’ll be there…camera in hand. Kirstine went to her first live concert at 7 years old, and hasn’t looked back since!

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