Monday, April 16, 2018

Tommy Emmanuel Tears The Roof Off In Central Florida With Anthony Snape

April 8, 2018

The Plaza Live
Orlando, Florida

by Michelle Wilson of Rock Legends Photographers

Singer/songwriter/guitarist Tommy Emmanuel brought his explosive guitar dynamics to The Plaza Live in Orlando, Florida and played to a packed house of mesmerized fans. The Australian-born, Nashville-based guitar wizard, who was extolled by the late, great Chet Atkins as one of the greatest guitar players he had ever seen, incorporates a unique fingerpicking technique into his playing style and has twice been named "Best Acoustic Guitarist" in Guitar Player Magazine. Also noteworthy is the fact that Emmanuel never learned to read music and plays by ear. Every show is chock full of charm, personality and humor, and oh yeah - intense pickin'.

Opening the show was fellow Aussie Anthony Snape, who also now calls Nashville home. After Emmanuel's management team took notice of Snape's talent, they reached out to him and he became Emmanuel's opening act. The two have been touring together for the past ten years, and it's easy to see why. Surely it is rare to attend a show where NO ONE is in the lobby during the opener, but that was exactly the case at this performance. The singer/songwriter/guitarist, much like Emmanuel, was highly audience-interactive, completely at ease on stage and brimming with talent and wit. His vocals literally induce chills. While on stage, he explained that he creates unique set lists with his own drawings based on that particular day and location. He has an ingenious strategy that involves audience members emailing him from their phones, and the first one he receives wins the autographed set list/guitar pick combo as well as a photo with him. It's ingenious because it brings people out to his merch booth, not that he needs a lure because he IS that good. After his riveting 45 minutes quickly were over, he headed out to the lobby to greet a sea of new fans, this one included. Snape could not have been more personable, and his musical stylings were the perfect complement to the headliner. 

Taking the stage at 9:10pm and opening with an instrumental-only rendition of Blind Faith's "Can't Find My Way Home" (Steve Winwood), Emmanuel dazzled for 90 powerful minutes with multiple standing ovations from the crowd. "I have to check tuning - been spanking it all night. That's what this place does to me," confided Emmanuel, a wonderful nod to The Plaza Live and its faithful Florida fan base.

Early on, two young female fans apparently lost their way to a Dead show and went dancing to the front of the stage, where security briskly bustled them back to their seats. "I remember when I had my first drink," Emmanuel chortled, and then launched into "Deep River Blues," his homage to Doc Watson recorded with Jason Isbell (vocals) on his latest release, Accomplice One

Another cut deftly executed from the new record was "You Don't Want To Get You One Of Those," a tongue-in-cheek number written by and recorded with Mark Knopfler. "Mark only plays on songs he wrote. I think Mark has been listening to Randy Newman," kidded Emmanuel, because the song DOES have a strong Newman flair. While Emmanuel chose two studios in Tennessee to record "in person" with each artist on Accomplice One, the Dire Straits founder/frontman was not keen on leaving England. Instead, Emmanuel came to him while visiting his daughters and they laid down the track.

Also included in the set from Accomplice One was the fabulous, jazz-flavored "Saturday Night Shuffle" (Merle Travis), which Emmanuel recorded with the iconic Jorma Kaukonen and the incomparable Pat Bergeson (harp).

"I know we have some Chet Atkins fans here tonight, but the biggest one is here on this stage," Emmanuel admitted. The two recorded "Smokey Mountain Lullaby" at Atkins' home studio. He was scheduled to have surgery that morning and could not sleep. He woke Emmanuel at 3am, asked him if he could finish writing the remaining bits and they headed for the studio, recording the piece in one take. During Emmanuel's chilling performance, there was not a single sound to be heard in the venue, except the guitar.

"This is dedicated to those who went before us and to those who cannot see," Emmanuel shared, as he began "Blood Brothers," a poignant piece wrought with emotion and soul. As an ambassador for Guitars For Vets, Emmanuel is active with the organization, which offers free guitar lessons to military vets - "G for V." 

After the eloquent "Angelina," a song written for his daughter and admittedly his most requested original, it was time to shake things up. "Well, it's rock 'n roll time, I think! Do we have any Rolling Stones fans here? Good, here comes a Beatles tune," Emmanuel laughingly announced as he launched into one of his signature Beatles medleys capped off with a snip of "Classical Gas."

Joining Emmanuel on stage, opener Snape sang killer vocals on "Willie's Shades" (written by Doug Ashdown - Snape also sang vocals on the original, from the 2011 Tommy Emmanuel album, Little By Little) and "Burn For You" (Phil Buckle, John Farnham, Ross Fraser). "Oh, he is so good! I told ya! You heard it here first," Emmanuel boasted in true proud papa style, almost as if Snape were his own son. 

Following Snape's exit, Emmanuel tore into a scorching "Tall Fiddler" offset by a resplendent "Over The Rainbow," the Harold Arlen classic from " The Wizard of Oz" reinterpreted by Emmanuel based on the Chet Atkins version.

"I have to get this outfit back to Walmart. I'd like to finish with Beethoven's Seventh Symphony, but I don't know it," teased Emmanuel. The virtuoso from down under finished it off with another Accomplice One original, a stunning piece called "Rachel's Lullaby," also written for his daughter and recorded with ukulele phenom, Jake Shimabukuro. With leftover tracks and a desire to collaborate with other musicians, Emmanuel has suggested that there will be an Accomplice Two released some time in the future.

After a brief exit, he reemerged to explosive applause and cheers, with one exuberant fan yelling, "Just ten more!" "Just ten?" asked Emmanuel with a devilish grin. A man in the front row was sporting a Tommy Emmanuel shirt, and when Emmanuel saw it, he half-joked, "A montage of 50 of my worst faces. I'm glad someone is making money off me somewhere else!"

Closing it out with two songs including the Chet Atkins cover, "I Still Can't Say Goodbye," which Emmanuel dedicated to his father, the extraordinary evening came to its end. No doubt the crowd would have stayed for ten more.

Check out the full galleries of photos from Rock Legends Photographers at the links:

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