Tommy Emmanuel & J.D. Simo@Smothers Theatre 01.17.18

“Train up a child in the way he should grow, and when he is old, he will not depart from it.”

Proverbs 22:6

On Wednesday evening at the Smothers Theatre, both solo artists mentioned that they began learning their instruments at the tender age of four. Judging by the performances, a great endorsement of parents taking away their kids play station and replacing it with a guitar, setting them off into a similarly inspiring direction.

J.D. Simo opened the evening with a mix of earthy electric blues and folk. His foot stomped out the beat as his guitar wacka wooka’d through a heavy metal “People Say” and an ominous guitar sliding “Light the Candle” while his voice ranged from earthy shouts and growls on “Nightlife” to tender pleads on the acoustic “I Want Love.” His closing rendition of “A Little Help From My Friends” was filled with visceral passion and riveting electric guitar solos. With most of the songs from his recent album Rise and Shine, Sino delivered an impressive invitation to check him out next time around with his band.

Also taking up the six strings barely out of diapers, Tommy Emmanuel brings a joi de vie as he used  90 minute solo set to demonstrate how a master craftsman treats his trade. Like Geppetto carving out Pinocchio, Emmanuel brings to life songs both familiar and original. His fingers danced over the strings on a gorgeously ragtime “Over the Rainbow” and swept like an orchestra through a dramatic “Classical Gas.” Mixing downhome humor with nostalgia, his fingers caressed the tender and flowing dedication to his daughter on “I’ve Always Thought Of You” delivering a cozy old-timey treat of a song from his  upcoming album, Mark Knopfler’s “You Don’t Wanna Get You One Of Those” album while creating a pastoral stroll through the countryside on “One Day. His mastery of the guitar is able to make it sound like a calliope as on “Waltzing Matilda” sounding like a full band.  During a riveting “Guitar Boogie,”  his hands worked on both the strings and body for percussion while a  Medley had his Rodrigo right hand and Gabriele left hand do a pair of guitar lines  simultaneously during “Lady Madonna”  and made the strings cry alligator tears on “While My Guitar Gently Weeps.”

As he closed the evening, Emmanuel confessed, “I’m in the ‘happiness’ business; I play, you get happy. I couldn’t imagine doing anything else, as it’s the joy of my life.” The emotions were likewise, as Emmanuel not only masters the virtuosity and joy of the guitar, he embodies it.

Upcoming shows at the Smothers Theatre include Carrie Newcomber 01/22 and The Four Freshmen 01/28

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