In July 2009, when a friend pointed me to a few You Tube videos of Tommy Emmanuel, my reaction was â€œHoly crap! Iâ€™ve never seen anyone play a guitar like that â€“ ever!â€ I blogged about it here and resolved that if Tommy Emmanuel was ever playing anywhere near the House by the Parkway, I would go see him play.
Months ago, the Surflight Theatre, not far from the House by the Parkway (South), announced that Tommy Emmanuel would be performing there in September. Mrs. Parkway surprised me with tickets to the show as a Fatherâ€™s Day gift, which means I waited in anticipation to see the performance for just about three months. When the big day rolled around, I was even more pleasantly surprised to see that our seats were second row, center (I guess thatâ€™s because she bought them so early). I would be sitting approximately fifteen feet from this amazing musician. I was stoked.
Turns out that Tommy Emmanuel had an opening act that day, Frank Vignola and Vinny Raniolo. Having never heard of either of them, I admit to having thought at the time, â€œFeh! An opening act? I came here to see Tommy Emmanuel.â€ I soon learned how wrong I was to have thought that.
Frank Vignola (who played for years with Les Paul) and Vinny Raniolo (who is only 26!) took the stage and, within thirty seconds, my jaw dropped at what I was hearing and seeing, and it stayed that way through their entire performance. They played a wide array of music, from beautiful ballads (containing luscious jazz riffs) to tunes permitting them to display their warp speed fingerings. Simply fabulous.
Tommy Emmanuel then took over and I thought my head would explode hearing him play the guitar in a manner that starts with a Chet Atkins style and from there flies off into the guitar stratosphere, often using his guitar as a percussion instrument. Amazing. Tommy Emmanuel closed the show by bringing back Frank Vignola and Vinny Raniolo and the three of them drove the audience into a frenzy of applause. I thought my brains would fall out.
Subsequently, I learned that Frank Vignola and Vinny Raniolo would be appearing on October 20th in Toms River, NJ, also not that far from the House by the Parkway (South). I immediately snapped up two tickets. It was a small venue, so you felt as if Frank and Vinny were playing in your living room. Once again, they positively floored me. At times, their strumming hands were literally a blur. And, for what itâ€™s worth, although they are gifted artists, they seem like genuinely nice guys.
Here is a homemade video I found of Frank and Vinny playing at Lincoln Center
Here they are just pickinâ€™ and having some fun.
Bottom line: If they are ever in your area, buy a ticket. You will not be sorry, except that if youâ€™re a guitar player, you might want to return home and throw your guitar into the fire.