Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Tommy Emannuel at The Harvester

Friday night my husband and I went to see Tommy Emmanuel perform at The Harvester Performance Center in Rocky Mount. He is a guitar player.

The Harvester

The Harvester Performed Center is about an hour and 15 minute drive for us if the traffic is light. This was the first time we had been to a show there. The Harvester seats 460 people - Tommy Emmanuel had a sold-out show. Some performances offer "gold seats," which basically means you get to sit anywhere you want in the first 10 rows. We had those and it was worth the extra money.

The chairs are very comfortable; however, the sides are not slanted toward the stage and the best seats therefore are in the middle of the venue. There are only a few poles to block views and the aisles were comfortably wide.

You can buy beer and wine inside ("adult beverages"), along with bottled water and a few things to eat. There was some kind of food truck parked outside for the early arrivals.

Parking, however, is not readily available and I saw no handicapped parking spots whatsoever. We found something close because we arrived at 6:20 and the doors opened at 7:00 p.m.; even then, there was already a line at the door. Most of the parking is on-street or perhaps a bank parking lot; there is a note on the venue's website that notes a few places will have your car towed if you park there.

The sound was great; the acoustics were good even though we were sitting to one side of the stage.

The Harvester stage prior to the show.

Tommy Emmanuel

I have been watching youtube videos of this guy for a while now. He is a fingerstyle guitarist who bills himself as a one-man band. He beats on his guitar for the drums, place the base notes on the upper two strings with his thumb, and managed to do the rhythm and melody lines all at the same time.

I have never seen anyone play guitar like he does. Here is a video of his version of Classical Gas, which seems to be his signature song. The crowd broke into applause and cheers as soon as he started it.

Emmanuel has been a soloist for a long time, but in the 1970s and 80s, he was a "sessions" guitarist (played on records of multiple bands/singers) and he toured at one time with Tina Turner.

Because I am still on the media/release lists, I had earlier received a press release request from Mr. Emmanuel's publicist. She sent me these stats:

•         He is arguably the greatest living acoustic guitarist. Known for his unique fingerstyle playing, he frequently threads three different parts simultaneously into his material, operating as a one-man band who handles the  melody, the supporting chords and the bass all at once.
•         Has been nominated for two GRAMMY Awards, and two ARIA Awards from the Australian Recording Industry Association
•         One of only 5 guitarists in the world who was named a Certified Guitar Player by guitar legend Chet Atkins
•         Has averaged over 300 shows per year all over the world, including sold out shows in North America, Australia, Europe, South America, and Asia, including recent tours in Russia and China 
•         Voted “Favorite Acoustic Guitarist” in both Guitar Player Magazine and Acoustic Guitar Magazine reader polls
•         YouTube channel has over 31,000,000 views and 192,000+ subscribers      

We were not supposed to take photos but I had my Nikon Coolpix 3200S with me. (I have never been very good at following the rules, I'm afraid.) I hid the lighting from the back viewer on the camera with a piece of paper so I am lucky I managed to get any pictures at all, since I was basically guessing at the shot since I couldn't see what I was aiming at, but I did take a few that turned out OK.

Getting ready to head into Classical Gas (I think).

Doing a little singing. He also told jokes.

The only quibble I had with the show was near the end, when he took out a drum brush and was showing how he used the microphone and guitar as percussion instruments. During this time, the lighting switched off and on to each beat, and I knew as soon as he began to speed up that this was not something I could watch. Lighting like that sets off migraines (and epileptic seizures in some people) so I shut my eyes and eventually had to take off my glasses and cover them completely with my hands because I could still see the lights going off and on through my closed eyelids. It is frustrating to run into things like this because people either are not aware of sensitivities like that or don't care. I was glad I realized what was happening before I ended up with a major headache.

He played for about two hours, doing a wide range of songs, including the first time I'd ever heard The Entertainer by Scott Joplin played on guitar instead of piano. Many of the tunes were his own arrangements.

Joe Robinson

Joe Robinson is a young man that Tommy Emmanuel is mentoring. He opened the show. 

Here's a video of him playing and singing:

He was an excellent guitar player, too, though I had a hard time understanding the words to his songs. I don't know if that was because of where I was sitting or because I have slow southern ears.

He liked to do tricks, like play two guitars at a time:

Joe Robinson playing acoustic and electric guitars
He could lose the hat, I think.

All in all, an enjoyable evening. Will I ever play like that? I doubt it. I'm 53 years old and have let too much time slip through my fingers, literally. But maybe I can get a little better . . . if I practice.

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