Fans endured incessant rain at Meijer Gardens on Wednesday. But at Studio Park, the storms forced the summer’s first Listening Lawn show to move indoors. The recaps, photo galleries at Local Spins.
SCROLL DOWN FOR PHOTO GALLERIES: EMMANUEL AND TANK & THE BANGAS
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The rain came down early Wednesday evening at Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park and just kept coming during the entire performance of guitar virtuoso Tommy Emmanuel.
Or were those tears from the guitar gods, crying in a jealous admiration of the mastery of the man and his instrument?
Ponchos, umbrellas and rain jackets prevailed, but fans in the less-than-capacity crowd were more than enthusiastic, remaining in place even as the rain continued.
Opening his 80-minute set with “Deep River Blues,” Emmanuel soon ran throughn several circular instrumental forays before dedicating several songs to family.
“A Song for a Rainy Morning” recalls his late brother and sister. “I Still Can’t Say Goodbye,” a Chet Atkins cover, was dedicated to his father, with Emmanuel also performing Atkins’ “Windy and Warm.”
Atkins was a mentor of sorts to Emmanuel, who learned Atkins’ finger-style method early in his youth. Young Tommy learned to play by listening to records and the radio in his native Australia, figuring out how to play all the parts — lead, rhythm and bass — simultaneously. As he explained to the audience, that method “fills out” the sound.
Although remaining dry on the covered stage, the artist found himself adjusting the tuning on his guitar more often than usual, affected by the humid conditions.
“We’re going for perfection, but we’ll settle with progress,” he said with a smile. “But the love coming from you is driving all this (B.S.) away.”
The guitarist, now based in Nashville, is a master of working segments of songs into his extended instrumental dalliances. He snuck in a few bars of the Beatles’ “Day Tripper” at one point, one of hundreds of songs in his expansive catalog.
An amazing craftsman, watching this guitar wizard from a distance makes it difficult to tell the source of all the multiple sounds Emmanuel squeezes from his solo instrument. Up close, it’s just a blur.
The evening’s most serene moments came following the guitarist’s announcement: “Now it’s your turn to sing.” Without any further introduction, he began strumming the rhythm and picking the melody to John Lennon’s thoughtful anthem, “Imagine.”
The crowd caught on, joining in song while the off-mic Emmanuel simply played.
Did the rain let up just a bit, perhaps, during the inspiration and unity of those moments?
PAIRING UP WITH JERRY DOUGLAS WHILE A STUDIO PARK SHOW MOVED INDOORS
For the drummers in the audience, the trick-filled artist also demonstrated the use of his guitar as a percussion instrument, using every bit of its square-footage in the instrumental tour-de-force.
“Are we having fun yet?” he teased.
To close his set, he invited legendary Dobro player Jerry Douglas — who opened the night with his band — to duet with him on two songs they’ve recorded together (including “Mama Knows” from Emmanuel’s latest album, “Accomplice Two”).
Then he invited the rest of Douglas’s bandmates on stage with them to finish the night, closing with the Hank Williams tune “Mind Your Own Business,” before wrapping up rather quickly as heavier rains loomed.
Earlier, Douglas and his crew had opened with an hour-long set demonstrating the players’ own musical prowess. The crisp-sounding, four-piece ensemble included the country-blues “2:19” and a cover of “While My Guitar Gently Weeps,” which sounding a bit different via Dobro.
The band’s tight sound was especially highlighted on the newly named “Come and Go” (formerly “We Hide and Seek”) and their raucous “Who’s Your Uncle?”
While concertgoers at Meijer Gardens sat through a soggy evening of music, the season’s first “Listening Lawn” concert outdoors at Studio Park in downtown Grand Rapids on Wednesday proved to be a disjointed affair of sorts — starting in the rain with opening act Sir Woman before the threat of lightning forced a long pause in the show.
Eventually, organizers moved the headlining set by New Orleans funk/soul/hip-hop group Tank & The Bangas indoors to the Midtown listening room where they regaled a small but enthusiastic bunch of hardy, patient fans deep into the evening.
Browse photo galleries from both shows here.
PHOTO GALLERY: Tommy Emmanuel, Jerry Douglas at Meijer Gardens
Photos by Eric Stoike
Photos by Chelsea Whitaker