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Live Review: Tommy Emmanuel

18 August 2015 | 9:36 am | Lucas Murphy

"A performer in the truest sense of the word."

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One man and his guitars was enough. No support acts, no backing band and little in the way of effects, it seemed, was enough to draw multitudes of disbelieving patrons to Perth Concert Hall. Such is often the case with a Tommy Emmanuel show, a man that doesn't distract his audience with words, effects pedals or even other musicians, as the guitar speaks for itself.

Greeting the full concert hall with a simple "'Allo Perth!" before launching into an uninterrupted four-song set with scarcely a word uttered between them, Emmanuel set the mood for the rest of the night quickly — the attention would be right there on the fingerboard. Once he was warmed up he spoke to the audience, saying that it was good to be back in the Wildflower State, though the greeting was nearly as brief as his first before beginning his next piece. It went down well, particularly when he worked in Waltzing Matilda at the end. Whether or not this was him seizing the opportunity before copyright laws make it more difficult for him to do so remains to be seen. His primary goal on this tour was naturally to promote his new material, so the audience was treated to much of the music that can be found on his latest album, It's Never Too Late, which proved to be eclectic and deeply pensive. Emmanuel described one song off the latest record to be like if he were to travel back in time and write the theme song for a John Wayne movie set in Ireland. Other songs were unapologetically inspired by other musicians, of whom he had many homages to pay. Emmanuel wore his influences and heroes right there on his sleeves, paying tribute to many great guitarists including Chet Atkins, Merle Travis and Martin Taylor. For such an effervescent, impressive and showy performance, Emmanuel's dialogue was full of humility, warmth and selflessness. Locals got mentions as well, including Concept Music's Graham Hoskins (to whom his version of Nat King Cole's Mona Lisa was dedicated for the evening) and the staff and crew at the Concert Hall. Not just a guitarist for the night, Emmanuel was a performer in the truest sense of the word, making the concert intimate, joyous and engaging, rather than simply impressive, which he already had in the bag.