Tommy Emmanuel is widely recognized as one of the greatest acoustic guitar players on the planet. Give him a Maton, stick the spotlight on him and all bets are off. His picking style, compositional sensibility and imagination has taken the instrument to new levels.
But these days it is a rare thing indeed that we see him with an electric guitar in his hands. When he does, it tends to be a special occasion – like at the latest installment of Steve Vai’s four-day guitar extravaganza, Vai Academy 6.0.
Emmanuel joined the likes of Nuno Bettencourt, Guthrie Govan, Larry Mitchell, Joe Robinson, Billy Sheehan and Yvette Young for a long weekend of musical immersion, workshops, tutorials and performances at Hilton Lake Las Vegas Resort and Spa on August 4 to 8.
Many attend for the tuition, and for the chance to learn up close and personal with some of the best musicians on the planet – and Emmanuel duly hosted a masterclass over the weekend.
But it’s an event that throws up a number of performances that are not to be missed, such as Emmanuel’s matinee show, and then the all-star jam that found the Australian guitarist joining Steve Vai onstage and using Vai’s Stratocaster-inspired 1998 Ibanez JEM to play some juicy blues.
As backing bands go, you can’t get much better than Vai and the venerable Larry Mitchell on rhythm guitar, Phillip Bynoe on bass, with Jeremy Colson on drums. The moment was captured for posterity and joins a select few occasions in recent years when we have seen Emmanuel cut loose on the electric.
There was that infamous jam with Joe Bonamassa on the Keeping the Blues Alive Cruise. Back at the 2017 G4 experience, he joined Def Leppard’s Phil Collen and Joe Satriani for the final night jam with a Telecaster.
Occasions such as this serve as a reminder that genius translates across acoustic or electric. And if you’re in any doubt, spend some time with this segment below from Emmanuel’s Guitar Talk DVD, in which he splits the atom with a Telecaster. Definitely something to send us all back to the woodshed.
Emmanuel’s jam was not the only notable collaboration at Vai Academy 6.0. Steve Vai shared the stage with Yvette Young and the two Ibanez signature artists struck up a typically conversational exchange of virtuosity with Vai playing harmonies over Young's instrumental.
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