Tommy Emmanuel is widely recognized as one of the greatest acoustic guitarists on the planet. Give him a Maton, star him in the spotlight and all bets are off. His playing style, compositional sensibility and imagination took the instrument to new levels.
But nowadays it is a rare thing indeed that we see it with a electric guitar in his hands. When he does, it’s usually a special occasion – like on the latest episode of Steve Vai’s four-day guitar extravaganza, Vai Academy 6.0.
Emmanuel joined 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 the Hilton Lake Las Vegas Resort and Spa on 4 to August 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 yields a number of must-see performances, like Emmanuel’s matinee show and then the all-star jam that found the Aussie guitarist joining Steve Vai on stage and using the 1998 Ibanez JEM inspired by Vai’s Stratocaster for playing juicy blues.
As backing bands, you can’t do 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 few select occasions in recent years where we’ve seen Emmanuel go wild 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 like this remind us that genius translates into 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. Certainly something to send us all back to the stake.
Emmanuel’s jam wasn’t the only notable collaboration at Vai Academy 6.0. Steve Vai shared the stage with Yvette Young and the two Ibanez signature artists began a typically conversational exchange of virtuosity with Vai playing harmonies over Young’s instrumental.