Live Review: Emmanuel & Taylor @ The Robin 2.

In 1910 a boy was born to a family of nomadic gypsies camped outside the village of Liberchies in Belgium. By the time of his death, only 42 years later in 1952, this boy, Jean Reinhardt, had become world famous as “Django”, possibly the greatest of jazz guitarists.The Colonel and the Governor decided it was time to release Pandora’s Box and open up these old songs, not just from Django, but many more of their heroes.

A capacity crowd on a Mothering Sunday saw folk queuing outside on this bitterly cold night. The doors finally opened at 7.30 p.m. and there was anticipation in the air that this was to be no ordinary gig.

Guitarists Tommy Emmanuel & Martin Taylor (Photographer: Simon Jay Price)

Guitarists Tommy Emmanuel & Martin Taylor (Photographer: Simon Jay Price)

Following the track order of the new album, the show kicked off with “Won’t Last a Day Without You” and “Jersey Bounce” before heading into a classic Carl Kress tune called “Heatwave”. Kress hailed from Chicago and wrote this tune in 1934, Taylor and Emmanuel playing with such a passion, reviving this old music as if written yesterday. A Benny Goodman number, “A Smooth One” lead into the first solo spot my Martin Taylor with a great rendition of “They Can’t Take That Away from Me”.

Guitarists Tommy Emmanuel & Martin Taylor (Photographer: Simon Jay Price)

Guitarists Tommy Emmanuel & Martin Taylor (Photographer: Simon Jay Price)

The solo spot by Tommy Emmanuel was introduced with a statement that this gig represented the 10th Year Anniversary of his performance at the Wolverhampton Robin, whereby some-one in the audience videoed his unbelievable rendition of “Guitar Boogie” and placed it on the internet. Over the next years this clip bought Tommy much new fame and expanded his audience, consequently, this unique rendition is now known in his repertoire as the “U Tube Song”.

Guitarists Tommy Emmanuel & Martin Taylor (Photographer: Simon Jay Price)

Guitarists Tommy Emmanuel & Martin Taylor (Photographer: Simon Jay Price)

Tommy explained that this was first tour without his old broken up guitars, declaring not even they could last forever. “The great thing about playing with new guitars is that they invite new ways to play and this in itself creates new music” and so he launched into “Blood Brothers” a brand new piece which had the audience spellbound. His technique of playing the entire instrument is simply breath-taking; he uses the body of the guitar as a drum and at one time had his fingers covering seven bridges. Don’t try this at home, you could hurt yourself.

In a concert which saw them playing two sets and nearly 3 hours of music they introduced Django Reinhardt and Stéphane Grappelli’s “Honeysuckle Rose”. Originally recorded in London in 1938 and sits on the album “The Quintet of the Hot Club of France”, this time it was the turn of the Hot Club of Bilston.

Guitarists Tommy Emmanuel & Martin Taylor (Photographer: Simon Jay Price)

Guitarists Tommy Emmanuel & Martin Taylor (Photographer: Simon Jay Price)

Martin introduced “True” describing how “it always makes me laugh” the fact that as a jazz guitarist, who did I get to write this next song with; Dolly Parton!”.

“Down at Cocomos” bought great fun, as Martin explained how he had spent a great 2 years living in the Caribbean in 1973-4, before inserting a piece of cardboard in his fret board to create a calypso sound “mocked” by Tommy, with a comic version of duelling banjos. As Martin strutted away, Tommy played a rhythm on his guitar as if it were a drum, even bashing the mike with his soft brush drumstick, at one time brushing off Taylor’s jacket in jest, still playing the guitar with the other hand. This had to be seen to be believed. The set concluded with a beautiful rendition of “Hey, Mr Sandman” which was a fitting way to bid goodnight.

Tommy came on for a few solo encores (Martin had actually hurt his hand) and he coolly reeled off the signature music from the BBC review programme “Film” which is actually called “I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel To Be Free” which bought back memories of Barry Norman in his big chair. The track was originally recorded in 1963, as a gospel composition, written by Billy Taylor.

The whole process of dealing with Tommy Emanuel and Martin Taylor has been an incredible journey. After the gig I met with the duo in their dressing room, they offered some of their curry as they were waiting for their driver to go some 4 hours down to Exeter. No resting for this pair, not only is the spirit of Django music in their hearts but the Romany spirit is embedded in their souls.

Guitarists Tommy Emmanuel & Martin Taylor (Photographer: Simon Jay Price)

Guitarists Tommy Emmanuel & Martin Taylor (Photographer: Simon Jay Price)

Read the album review of The Colonel & The Governor here:

Rockshot Review @ Robin 2 Bilston by Tim Price March 10th 2013
Photography by Simon Jay Price @ Shepherds Bush Empire 16th March 2013

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