Amazing expertise, versatility well received

Virtuoso guitarist Tommy Emmanuel played at Dunedin’s Regent Theatre on Sunday. PHOTO: SIMONE...
Virtuoso guitarist Tommy Emmanuel played at Dunedin’s Regent Theatre on Sunday. PHOTO: SIMONE CECCHETTI
Tommy Emmanuel, Regent Theatre, Sunday, April 7.

While the audience half-filled the stalls of the Regent Theatre on Sunday eve for the performance by guitarist Tommy Emmanuel, they made up for their numbers with their ongoing enthusiasm and a standing ovation.

The event may have suffered from a lack of information for the local tour. Emmanuel’s profile as session musician to Dragon, John Farnham and Tina Turner, among others, has won him many awards. His expertise and versatility is without doubt extraordinary.

Pieces from his repertoire, such as Mason Williams' Classical Gas, a medley from The Beatles, Arthur Smith's Guitar Boogie, Merle Haggard’s Working Man Blues, Doc Watson’s Deep River Blues and excerpts from his new release, Accomplice, reveal his virtuosity.

Performed at pace with fine fingerpicking and superb sensitivity to the lyric line, each piece is embellished with lengthy improvisations and well-prepared returns to its subject.

Similarly, medleys were smoothly traversed with themes ringing out sufficiently for the audience to recognise their favoured works.

Emmanuel’s dexterity, particularly in his percussive use of the guitar and microphone, were brilliant. He has a sweet singing voice too.

Happy to repeat that anything is possible if you simply "show up" and accept challenges, he attributes his success firstly to his early discovery and subsequent analysis of Chet Atkins’ style, secondly to his lack of formal education and thirdly to his parents’ and sibling’s devotion to music enhanced by smooth entrepreneurship and happy collaborations.

He has a wealth of influences and time to devote to honing his skills. His uninhibited use of his material and instrument is definitely an excellent result of being self-taught.

A more diverse range of lyricism to highlight his interpretative abilities might have improved an otherwise near perfect evening.

The warmth of applause given him by the audience for his venture out of small venues should encourage him to return to Dunedin.