Guitar Heroes Preview/Review!

Nov 19, 2009 | news

Photo: Derek Ruttan/Sun Media

Photo: Derek Ruttan/Sun Media

Guitar heroes out in force

Canadian guitar hero Rik Emmett pays tribute to his guitar heroes at Orchestra London’s Red Hot Weekends concerts this weekend.

The Canadian rock and Juno hall of famer joins the orchestra, the Jeans ‘n’ Classics band and conductor Mitch Tyler at Centennial Hall at 8 p.m. tomorrow and Saturday.

Emmett and friends open the 2009-2010 season’s Red Hot Weekends series season. Among the guitar wizards celebrated are Eric Clapton, Jimi Hendrix and Carlos Santana via performances of Layla, All Along the Watchtower and Black Magic Woman respectively.

Emmett is a guitarist-singer-songwriter whose 30-year career ranges from fronting Canadian rockers Triumph to win “smooth jazz” instrumental honours. “Rik is a brilliant musician who can hold his own on a world stage,” says Jeans ‘n’ Classics founder and guitar ace Peter Brennan. “He has worked with Jeans ‘n’ Classics for a number of years now — when we can get him — and he brings a level of sophistication and professionalism that raises the bar for us all. He is a true rock star.”

Emmett, Brennan and Toronto’s Dave Dunlop are the guitarists in the Rik Emmett’s Guitar Heroes lineup. Dunlop is often alongside Emmett in Triumph, Strung-Out Troubadours and the Rik Emmett Band.

Tickets are $40-$59, $15 for students. Series discounts are available. Visit or call 519-679-8778.

Originally posted Nov. 12 2009
Download PDF version

Orchestra London Red Hot Weekend – Rik Emmett’s Guitar Heroes

Written by Richard Young

Centennial Hall
Friday, November 13 & Saturday, November 14
8:00 p.m.
3½ stars out of 4

If soaring guitar solos are your thing, then Orchestra London’s current Red Hot Weekends offering – Guitar Heroes featuring Rik Emmett – is the place you ought to be this weekend.

Emmett, the former guitarist for iconic Canadian rock band Triumph and now a successful jazz solo artist, is a long-time Jeans ‘n Classics collaborator. For this concert he pays tribute to some of his own guitar heroes, including Eric Clapton, Jimi Hendrix, Carlos Santana, Mark Knopfler and Pat Metheny. Backed by a scaled-down Orchestra London and arranger Peter Brennan’s very competent Jeans ‘n’ Classics band, the affable Emmett did not disappoint the Friday evening audience.

After opening the show with the rocking All Along The Watchtower, a Jimi Hendrix staple written by Bob Dylan, Emmett joked that the orchestra was a “very expensive backing band” before launching into the more subdued Sultans of Swing by Dire Straits.

Emmett shifted gears throughout the concert, changing guitars several times to elicit the sounds and tones he desired for each particular number. Proving that he is no nostalgic head-banger, Emmett played a variety of tunes, ranging from the ethereal jazzy sounds of Santa Fe Horizon and Pat Metheny’s Last Train Home to Cream’s White Room and a rousing version of Eric Clapton’s Layla.

He also included Santana standards, Black Magic Woman and Samba Pa Ti, a soulful version of Clapton’s Wonderful Tonight, the classic Sleepwalk, first made famous in 1959 by Santo & Johnny Farina, and three originals. Emmett preceded A Midsummer’s Daydream aka “Rik’s Classical Song,” an original song from his Triumph days, with an explanation of how rock audiences used to “fire up doobies [marijuana joints], giving me the munchies whenever I played it.”

Under the capable direction of Conductor Mitch Tyler and playing from charts arranged by Brennan, the orchestra musicians appeared to shine on most pieces adding just the right balance of nuance and fullness – while on some, particularly the rockier pieces, they appeared uncomfortable and were relegated to providing accents. At times, Emmett’s voice faltered, but it was his guitar playing that the audience came to hear, so this is a minor quibble.

To be sure, the Jeans ‘n’ Classics mix of rock and classical music has proven to be popular with London audiences over the years and the two-day Red Hot Weekends concerts continue to be best sellers for Orchestra London.

Emmett was brought back to the stage for two encores. For the first, he played George Harrison’s popular While My Guitar Gently Weeps, which featured a very well received call and response component between himself and “Smokin’ Joe Lanza,” the term he used to describe Orchestra London Concertmaster and First Violinist, Joseph Lanza.

Because Emmett and company have a repeat show on Saturday night, I prefer not identify his second encore song, other than to say he plays his iconic double-necked Gibson guitar and it is one of the most famous pieces in the rock canon.

The appreciative audience filed out of Centennial Hall, having heard what they came for…and more.

Richard Young is the Managing Editor of The Beat – Arts in London.

Originally posted Nov. 14 2009
Download PDF version