Tommy Emmanuel performed a sold out show at The Birchmere Concert Hall on Sunday night. He had another large crowd on hand for Monday’s show, which I attended. The show featured up-and-coming singer-songwriter Anthony Snape as the opening act. Snape was energized and excited to open the show. He showed he was a talented guitarist, gifted songwriter, and has an incredible voice. Tommy Emmanuel showed why he is considered a guitar legend. His performance was part showman, part guitar clinic, and by the end he left the crowd blown away. He showed he is considered among the best guitarists in the world and he also proved to be one of the most creative.
Anthony Snape took the stage with a guitar. Tonight, there would be no bands and the night would belong to the guitar. Snape opened his nine-song set with a song called “Frequency” from his first release Disappearing Day. Snape was happy to be playing and opening up for Tommy Emmanuel and it showed in his face and in his energized playing. He went on to play “Give In To Me” from his latest release Resonate. He played “Balloons” off the same album next. The song was released by Kris Thomas on the television show The Voice this week. Snape, the songwriter, was excited about his song being released and performed by another artist.
The song “Chasing Rainbows” was a song about what he is doing chasing his dream. If last night was any indication – he is starting to live his dream. The strongly crafted songs followed with “Beautiful World, “Still Not Over You” and his closing song “Sunday.” Tommy Emmanuel stated he expects big things from Snape in the future, and I certainly witnessed why.
Tommy Emmanuel opened his set with an instrumental that sounded like it would fit perfectly in a Western movie. He followed that with a song he recorded with the legendary Chet Atkins called “To Be or Not to Be” and the title was a play on words as the piece was in the ‘Key of B.’ Two more instrumentals followed which allowed Emmanuel to showcase his virtuosic guitar playing. Here was one man on stage with his guitar – controlling the whole concert hall – as every eye was looking at him and every ear was tuned into the music he was creating.
Next he launched into a medley of folk songs by Merle Travis. The medley was based around “16 Tons,” included parts of “Guitar Rag” and “Pound Hammer.” Tommy sang vocals to the medley which he gave a unique spin to like his guitar playing. Some of his vocals turned into jazz-like scat singing at times.
Emmanuel followed the medley with a Beatles’ Medley which started off with a beautifully played “Here Comes the Sun.” The medley drifted into “When I’m 64,” “Day Tripper,” and “Lady Madonna.”
Next came a new tune – “Bernie’s Tune” – off his new album with Martin Taylor. He then spoke about visiting Arlington Cemetery and about how he and his brother had tried to play for the troops in Vietnam when he was 16. He went on to say how fortunate he was to have never fought in a war and how he gets to do what he was born to do for a living. Then he played “The Diggers’ Waltz,” which came to him in a dream about a World War I soldier. He stayed with the ‘Brothers in Arms’ theme with “Blood Brother.”
Another incredible instrumental followed before Emmanuel demonstrated his playing style with Elvis Pressley’s “Don’t Be Cruel, followed by a version of Scott Joplin’s “The Entertainer,” a fitting tune since Tommy Emmanuel certainly is a great entertainer! Next he paid tribute to Jimmy Reed when he played “Guitar Boogie.”
One of the biggest highlights of the evening came next when Tommy invited Anthony Snape to join him on stage. They performed a wonderful rendition of Emmanuel’s “Burn for You,” which really brought out the best in Snape’s vocals. The two sang a cover of Peter Allen’s “I Still Call Australia Home,” which was performed beautifully by the two Australians.
When Snape left the stage Emmanuel continued with a Native American influenced song called “The Trail.” The piece was very distinctive and was the most creative tune he played all night. He followed that tune with an instrumental in which he turned his microphone and guitar into pure percussion instruments. He beat his guitar and microphone with a drum brush. He slapped and tapped the guitar with his hands. He redefined his guitar from a string instrument to a percussion instrument. The sound of course came out like everything else he performed tonight -perfection. He closed with a version of John Lennon’s “Imagine.” He would return for a two song encore. The last four instrumentals all earning well earned standing ovations.
The sound was perfect at The Birchmere Concert Hall., as was the lighting. The crowd was polite and attentive. Tommy Emmanuel and Anthony Snape performed from their hearts and with immense joy, and I was so wad there to hear and experience these two incredible artists.
Tommy Emmanuel and special guest Anthony Snape played two nights on June 16 and 17, 2013. at The Birchmere – 3701 Mount Vernon Avenue, in Alexandria, Virginia. A list of upcoming shows and venue information can be found on The Birchmere’s website.