[WORLD PREMIERE ~ SCOTLAND/ENGLAND]
Dunstan Playhouse, Adelaide Festival Centre, Fri 10 Aug.
Richard Smith [ENG] and Tony McManus [SCOT] are old friends. Guitarists extraordinaire, they were both born in the UK and now reside in North America. Interestingly, Smith seems to have transplanted his musical soul to their new continent, while McManus has stayed faithful to his Celtic roots.
Each artist played their own set, with just one delicious encore piece seeing them playing in tandem. Smith immediately had proceedings very up-tempo in the opening set with bright foot tapping melodies skipping along with precision. He featured music from American country legends Jerry Reed and Merle Travis, veered slightly towards ragtime, and then explored jazz territory.
A diversion to Spain offered some stunning flamenco. Smith has that uncanny ability that all great guitar pickers possess of carrying a complex melody over infectious rhythms with apparent ease. A highlight for me was an exquisite instrumental rendition of Streets Of Laredo. Laredo’s famous melody is sweet enough, but in the hands of this master this version took me somewhere else. Just beautiful.
McManus provided an intriguing contrast. It was hard not to compare the style of these two guitar masters. McManus played a quieter, less ostentatious set, where the audience had to be more patient and listen for the soul of his pieces. His work was more delicate; with wistful melodies that are the hallmark of Celtic music. Much of his guitar work involved open or alternative tunings that lend a drone effect more often heard with pipes in this style of music. As much as I enjoyed McManus’ performance, I found myself yearning to hear him playing with other instruments. My wish was granted in the wonderful encore.
Kudos must go to the Adelaide Festival Centre for bringing these two maestros to Adelaide Guitar Festival and offering them as a double act. They complemented each other beautifully and showcased how versatile the guitar can be. Country, jazz, classical, Celtic – I left thinking that, if given the time, these two could probably play anything.