Tommy Emmanuel played a drum solo at his Oct. 6 concert in Columbus.
This would be unremarkable except for the fact that, A) Emmanuel is an acoustic guitarist and, B) Emmanuel played only acoustic guitars – four to be precise – at his Oct. 6 concert in Columbus.
Yet, there he was, bashing out syncopated percussion licks on the body of his guitar, using a pick to scape the worn finish and occasionally bashing the thing – and his live mic – with a brush to create the aural imagery of a full drum kit.
That’s much like the way Emmanuel – dubbed a certified guitar player by Chet Akins – approaches the more traditional side of his instrument. Though he is but one musician, Emmanuel sounds like a band as he fingerpicks, slaps, chords, wallops, hammers on, pulls off and executes tricks most guitarists can only hope to dream of, let alone play.
For his Beatles medley, Emmanuel reeled off and segued between portions of “She’s a Woman,” “Please Please Me,” “Day Tripper” and “Lady Madonna” to the delight of the masked, two-thirds-full house at Speaker JoAnn Davidson Theatre, who had waited two years and one week for the concert.
Originally scheduled for September 26, 2019, the gig was postponed when Emmanuel got sick and was postponed again when the world got sick. He thanked fans for holding their tickets for 105 weeks with a jaw-dropping, alternatively bluesy and hopeful, rendition of “Amazing Grace.”
“Although it’s not fashionable, I believe in hope,” he said.
Dressed in jeans and a red-and-black-striped work shirt, Emmanuel performed on an unadorned stage with minimal lighting and a smoke machine for 100 wordless minutes save for singing the infectious “Nine Pound Hammer” by request and “I Still Can’t Say Goodbye,” a heart-wrenching, if mawkish, requiem for his father.
The house went momentarily dark after each number to add drama. But it wasn’t necessary.
The pin-drop quiet crowd gasped repeatedly during Emmanuel’s harmonics-laden “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.” And originals like the high-test “Fuel” and the meandering “The Wide Ocean” elicited explosions of delight from the audience.
When it was over, Emmanuel had more than fulfilled his job to “to serve the music and serve the music to you.”
A standing ovation ensued.