Saturday, October 24, 2009

Missing Tommy

I discovered on Friday afternoon that the Australian guitarist Tommy Emmanuel was in town, playing a one-off concert at the Peking University Concert Hall.

Now, alack and alas, there didn't seem to have been very much publicity for this gig at all - at least not in expat circles. I only noticed one brief listing in one of the English-language magazines - no articles or ads or posters - and that when it was really already too late to do anything about it.

Peking University is miles away (and, despite it having its own stop on the recently opened Line 4 subway, still not really very convenient to reach from the city centre). The campus is enormous, and there are very few signposts (and, as far as I can recall, no maps). I've been to the Concert Hall once before, but it took me bloody ages to find it, and I had no confidence that I would be able to find it again - at all - in the dusk, in a hurry. And, this late in the day, I figured the tickets would probably be all sold out anyway. (I do hope so: this is a guy who really deserves a packed auditorium. The event was obviously targeted mainly at the University crowd, and I would hope the word-of-mouth got around in Chinese musician circles.)

I wrestled with my conscience a good deal over whether I should try to schlepp up there and hope to be able to snag a ticket from a tout - but I'm afraid pessimism overwhelmed me. Damn. I do hope he'll be back one day. And play at a more accessible venue. With some decent advance publicity.

I'm not able to view (or embed) video clips at the moment, but there are quite a lot of performances by him on YouTube and so on. Well worth taking a look.

Tommy Emmanuel is a dazzling virtuouso, mainly these days in a sort of folk/jazz genre. Inspired by the great Chet Atkins, he has become perhaps the world's premier exponent of the finger-picking style, and is widely acclaimed by other guitarists as one of the greatest players of our age. He is the most significant international musician - well, the most significant non-classical musician, certainly - to have visited Beijing in several years (well, here I'm probably going to get Kanye West on my case, because Beyoncé was also playing here on Friday night, at the Wukesong Basketball Stadium), and I am gutted to have missed him. I have mentioned him on here once before, and linked to a clip of him playing a stunning arrangement of the sea shanty South Australia. If you haven't watched this yet, do go and check it out.

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