For those of you who have no idea who Tommy Emmanuel is, shame on you. His fame is so long-standing in Australia that it’s gone stale, which might be the very reason why I’m writing about him in my life-in-Moscow rag: I caught his show this weekend. I’d never heard of him before either, but a friend, one who is determined to have us leave Russia feeling positive about the place, gave us tickets to his concert this past Saturday.
Tommy performed at the very modern Moscow International House of Music, which overlooks a quay of the Moscow River and is likened to a “crystal palace”. I had but one negative: Though there are several floors inside, hosting as many levels of balcony seating, none have toilets (Often in need of relief, it’s an attribute I’ve noticed in many of the buildings here, new and old). But, as buildings go, it was nice: The main hall is covered from ceiling to floor to balcony rails in a sandy-colored wood that just screams no-expenses-spared.
Perhaps more entertaining for us was the crowd, ranging from dreadlocked university students (link doesn’t apply) in t-shirts to half-lost grandparents to people dressed to the nines and out from a proper theatre experience. Being ushered to our seats about ten minutes into the opening act, we were sat betwixt an entire row of collegiates and a young guy who was translating the English stage talk for his parents, all somehow fans of this rather aged Australian guitar player past his prime and lacking any top-of-the-charts hits.
How were they so in the know and we weren’t? We’d had to look Tommy up on the internet, watch some of his YouTube performances to get some idea of what we were in for, but somehow he’d packed the house. Admittedly, he’s pretty badass (watch the YouTube clip if you haven’t), but it still seemed a bit like going to see David Crosby, i.e. someone who maybe should’ve stopped when the getting was gone. In Moscow, the crowd was bursting into mistimed applause every time a stage door opened and they thought Tommy was finally making his entrance.
Then, he tore the stage up. I have never seen anything like it. The man came out onto a stage clearly more intended for orchestras than guitar soloist, and he rocked the international house, my friends. He left me with little choice but to include him in a blog, give praise where praise is due. Slapping, drumming, hitting, shaking, whatever it took—that old dude sometimes made his guitar sound like a freaking full band was playing. At one point, on one guitar, he seemed to be playing all the parts to “Day Tripper” and “Lady Madonna” by the Beatles.
I’m not sure how an Australian guitarist translates into the Moscow experience, but it was certainly worthy of note and unlike any show I’ve ever attended, as is Moscow, Dasha: You needn’t buy us anymore surprise tickets. We’ll say nice things. I promise.