I’ve just been to see Tommy Emmanuel, Australian guitarist extraordinaire, for the second time in my life.
I cannot recommend strongly enough that if you ever get the chance to see him, even if you think you have no interest in a guitar player, do not pass it up.
Going to see him is one of those rare things that can’t be explained: it has to be experienced.
I’ve had a few experiences like that in my life. People have raved about something but been unable to full explain why. They have dragged me to see something, or put a book in my hands and said “just read it” and I have been forever glad they did.
My brother-in-law introduced me to Tommy Emmanuel. He played me some tracks that I could hear were impressive, but it wasn’t until he put a ticket in my hand and said, “come with me” that I understood.
You might say Tommy Emmanuel plays guitar a bit like Chet Atkins, but that’s just a starting point and I can’t even begin to tell you where he takes it from there. I almost don’t want to. Just go and see him.
When I was at university my flat mate and I were talking about the movie “The World According To Garp”. It’s based on a book by John Irving. Phil’s face suddenly lit up and he asked if I had read “A Prayer for Owen Meaney”. I couldn’t even understand the question (say it out loud, go on. It doesn’t sound like real words). I asked him what it was about. He started to talk and then stopped.
“It’s…well…I can’t really say. You have to READ it.”.
At Christmas time he appeared clutching a brand new copy of the book in both hands. He thrust it at me without a word and walked away.
I started to read. I was enjoying it but I couldn’t have really told anyone what it was about. Then the book ended, my mind was blown, and I owed Phil big-time.
When I was eleven or twelve, maybe younger. My father took me to see the US Army/Airforce Band play in a town hall in a largish town in Scotland. This was the band that Glenn Miller had formed and led during the second world war. I had grown up listening to recordings of his music, loving it as my father did, and I thought I got it. I thought I knew what I was in for, but I didn’t. No recording can (so far) prepare you for the effect of a bank of trombone players turning their heads from left to right in unison. A description will never do justice to the feel of that music in the air, in your feet, in your breastbone.
If you’re lucky your family will bring you these experiences. If you’re really lucky it’ll be your friends. If you’re smart, you’ll find this even with people you don’t particularly like. Just look for the moment their eyes light up, the facade drops, and they start to show their passion. Then follow them wherever they lead you. You’ll be glad you did.