Show Review: Tommy Emmanuel at B.B. King Blues Club NYC

When a guitar dreams of heaven, it doesn’t necessarily dream of being in the hands of Tommy Emmanuel.

It’s not because he isn’t an amazing and adroit player that knows how to deliver an expressive and entertaining show.

It’s not because he can’t compose and perform in a diverse array of styles from blues to bluegrass.

Really it’s just that he’s a guitar abuser. He’ll scratch, tap, bang, smack and generally beat the crap out of his instrument all for the sake of the song. And although this might result in an amazingly fun and musical performance, well, it’s just not instrument friendly.

His show at B.B. Kings in New York City was a case in point.

Originally from Australia and now situated in Nashville, this man knows how to coax the most expressive melodies, rhythms and counterpoints out of his guitar. And this show ranged from down and dirty blues to classic Americana.

He even performed what I thought could have been a hokey segment as Will Galison joined him on harmonica. But instead I was treated to some of the best harmonica playing I’ve ever witnessed as they performed truly touching versions of classics like “Moon River” and “Sweet Georgia Brown.”

A personal favorite was his rendition of “Deep River Blues.” Although his voice was a bit gravelly from road wear throughout the show, the effect seemed appropriate somehow.

His stage patter is just about as good as his guitar playing and so my time with Tommy zipped by. He massaged, manipulated and caressed more character out of a guitar than I’ve ever seen done before.

Tommy closed the show with the original “Old Photographs” and I was sad to see it end. A truly entertaining show that made me walk out the door with a big smile on my face.

He’s got plenty more tour dates coming up. Find out more at

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Laura B. Whitmore

Laura B. Whitmore is a music industry marketing veteran, music journalist and editor, writing for, Guitar World, and others. She has interviewed hundreds of musicians and hosts the She Rocks Podcast. As the founder of the Women’s International Music Network, she advocates for women in the music industry and produces the annual She Rocks Awards. She is the Senior Vice President of Marketing for Positive Grid, making the world safe for guitar exploration everywhere! A guitarist and singer/songwriter, Laura is currently co-writing an album of pop songs that empower and energize girls.