Tommy Emmanuel returns to Heartwood Soundstage

Guitar master Tommy Emmanuel played two sets at Gainesville’s Heartwood Soundstage, an intimate indoor show in the venue’s wonderful listening room, and then moving outside on the festival stage for a much larger crowd. Emmanuel, who has played and recorded with a wide variety of artists from Mark Knopfler and Eric Clapton to Ricky Skaggs and Jason Isbell, first came to prominence in the early ’80s. His childhood influence Chet Atkins had invited him to Nashville, and they became close friends, recording a duet album that was released in 1997. He is one of five guitar players to bear the designation “Certified Guitar Player” as determined by Atkins. His guitar styling is unique, and he moves from classical Atkins/Travis finger picking to aggressively attacking the fingerboard with bluesy riffs, and the occasional blistering chromatic runs. His remarkable use of harmonics, integrating them into many of his slower songs, is distinctive.

Tommy Emmanuel 📷: Rick Davidson

Emmanuel is a masterful (and some would say unequaled) guitar player, and he’s also an entertainer. He involves the audience, tells interesting stories, and occasionally will do an a capella song about the wonders of life. He also plays drums, and his use of percussion on (yes, on) his guitar is always a show-stopper.

Tommy Emmanuel 📷: Rick Davidson

His sets included a variety of material, from his originals (“Fuel,””Big Wide Ocean,”” Angelina”) to his popular Beatles’ medleys (he did two, one on each stage). Covers of “Imagine,”” House of the Rising Sun,” Arthur Smith’s “Guitar Boogie,” and the chestnut “Mind Your Own Business” provided a canvas of songs that covered the waterfront.

Tommy Emmanuel 📷: Rick Davidson

On this tour he brought along Gareth Pearson, a young guitarist/performer who is making waves. The “Welsh Tornado,” as he is known, recently moved to Nashville. He provided a high-energy set of originals and vocals and clearly revels in his opportunity to tour with Emmanuel, who has supported and mentored Pearson in the same way as he was mentored by Chet Atkins.

Gareth Pearson 📷: Rick Davidson

Pearson also joined Emmanuel on the outdoor stage for a duet that was a showstopper.

Tommy Emmanuel and Gareth Pearson 📷: Rick Davidson

In one of the more moving parts of the outdoor set, he played a beautiful tribute to one of his favorite guitar players, Jeff Beck, who recently passed away.

Tommy Emmanuel and Gareth Pearson 📷: Rick Davidson

A Tommy Emmanuel performance is one you will not forget. If he’s playing anywhere near you, go out of your way. His shows are much more than just seeing a great guitar player; he’s a great entertainer and a legendary innovator as well. It’s a show you don’t want to miss.

Tommy Emmanuel 📷: Rick Davidson

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