Harry Manx brings sold-out show to Oliver Venables Theatre

Harry Manx live at Venables Theatre on July 28. (Brennan Phillips - Western News)
Harry Manx live at Venables Theatre on July 28. (Brennan Phillips - Western News)
Harry Manx live at Venables Theatre on July 28. (Brennan Phillips - Western News)
Harry Manx live at Venables Theatre on July 28. (Brennan Phillips - Western News)

In the midst of nearby fires, a sold-out crowd made their way to Oliver’s Venables Theatre for the first live shows indoors since COVID-19 broke out.

Harry Manx’s second and last show of the night on July 28 was an electric performance.

He made every instrument in his hands sing, from his custom-made guitar-sitar fusion, to a banjo and to his cigar-box guitar, their smooth sounds were a perfect accompaniment to the rasp in his voice.

If you want to see some incredible guitar work, go see a bluesman. And Harry Manx is a bluesman, through and through, with every song speaking to depths of emotion. The one-man band, with drums at his feet and his rack of instruments at his side, played a range of songs from over his 20-year solo career that has taken him to play international stages like Sydney.

Some songs spoke to melancholy, to anger, and some to finding a contentment in life.

His songs echoed through the theatre, the sound so big that it could have been from a stage for a thousand or more. The sold-out audience of 50, socially distanced throughout the theatre, had as intimate a performance as any club.

At one point Manx quipped that he spent two years getting ready for the show, spurring some laughter from the crowd.

“Just remember the blues is not about feeling bad — it’s about making other people feel bad,” Manx said.

He had plenty more quips and anecdotes to share as he switched from instrument to instrument.

He shared the time he went to New York, and performed at a blues club in the village, only to perform for a crowd smaller than the sold out show in Oliver.

He performed, “I’m On Fire”, which he had been invited to perform at a Bruce Springsteen-themed guitar festival that year after the organizer watch him play at the blues club. He performed it again with his cigar box guitar in Oliver, making it sound like it had been made for thousands of dollars more than the cigar box and broomsticks would suggest.

If “Death Have Mercy” was a soft-spoken plea to see another year, his performance of “Nine Summers Lost” was a frustrated question and the other side of the coin.

”Rain got me standing in my sad summer clothes

“Hearts can be broken only so many ways

“Nine kids down in under 30 days”

He wields the steel guitar in his hands almost like a weapon, as he almost shouts that, “Words get the best of me.”

Each song has a flavour of emotion to it that you can almost taste.

Manx’s version of J.J. Cale’s Tijuana was enchanting as ever. Transporting.

The land of broken dreams he calls it, clear in your mind’s eye from the dancing woman to the young men desperate to cross the border.

One of the most iconic parts of his performance is his guitar-sitar fusion, an instrument that he spent more than five years learning to play from the man who built it for him in Calcutta.

Perhaps it’s most fitting, that of all the songs he could have ended with, it was a song of love. A love that can take away any pain, that can heal.

Following a standing ovation, and a crowd that refused to leave, Manx was applauded back for one last song. A performance of Dog My Cat off his first album, that no concert would be complete without, in a world-class show in Oliver.

To report a typo, email: editor@pentictonwesternnews.com.


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