The prolific Australian guitarist’s livestream demonstrates the power of bringing music to fans in quarantine
Following the release of his latest studio album “The Best of Tommysongs” on May 8th, Tommy Emmanuel performed both new music and old favorites for his fans on a livestream broadcast. The performance was held on his website for those who pre-ordered the record. It’s available on CD, double vinyl, and even a special edition book bundle comprising of these aforementioned physical versions. With a blend of new material and re-recordings of his most famous tracks, “Tommysongs” is sure to please his incredibly loyal supporters across the globe.
Given the unique global circumstances surrounding COVID-19, musicians have been faced with the challenge of adapting their performances to a strictly digital medium. As a live performance veteran, the magic of Tommy’s music had no trouble overcoming these limitations. Longtime fans have grown accustomed to the unyielding onstage charisma and humor that graces each of his shows, and the 800+ attendees of the livestream were surely thankful to see that his character was as effervescent as ever that evening. He spoke to the camera between each song, drawing viewers into the room with him. Whether it be a celebration of his daughter’s birthday with the song “Angelina” that he penned for her or stating the origins of his new music like “Wide Ocean,” Tommy found a way to translate his affability to a new context. Without the external factors that come with being a fan among many in a packed concert hall, these brief conversations made the experience especially personal.
It’s easy to believe that face to face interaction would be impossible to replicate on an internet broadcast. Sharing the joy and excitement of a performer with those around you is one of the most cherished aspects of paying to see a musician live, so how could watching them through a screen in your home possibly live up to that experience? Fortunately, the incorporation of a live chat alongside the performance brought this community feel to a new platform. Throughout the show, the chat was active with discussion between fans in all corners of the world. From West Virginia, Malaysia, the UK, and more, supporters of all different backgrounds and cultures were brought together in one place. Everyone was there for the same reason, and the resulting kinship made for a special experience for all who took part. Whether it be resolving technical difficulties, sharing the title of a song someone may have missed, or simply expressing gratitude for the concert as a whole, fans were able to participate in the escape the experience provided together.
The most striking of the messages in the live chat surrounded the ability to enjoy a live performance in the living rooms of their homes. Onscreen, Tommy sat right in front of the camera, giving a sense of closeness that can only be obtained by sitting in the front row of one of his shows. The sunlight streamed through his window, vibrant tapestries lined the walls, and the warm smile he flashed throughout the concert gave listeners the experience of a personal acoustic set right in their home. The intimacy of the performance’s generally informal nature made it feel like he was singing directly to you. While such an experience was previously just a dream for many fans, the livestream made this dream a reality for hundreds around the world. Bringing live music into the homes of fans shines a light through the abundantly gloomy reality many people are experiencing today.
One listener characterized the nature of the event with a single word: Bittersweet. It’s disappointing for both Tommy and his fans that his beautiful music can’t be enjoyed in storied venues across the world. That being said, his livestream radiated hope. Despite the pandemic’s fracture of modern society, Tommy’s selflessness in sacrificing his own time brought his art to the world regardless. When the world resumes in whatever manner the new normal happens to be, the music of Emmanuel and other artists is sure to be welcomed with open arms that are wider than ever. For the time being, the livestream served as a triumphant exclamation of music’s capacity to unite us in the darkest of times.