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Finnen and Manning pick up their act


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Chris Finnen, Blues Hall of Fame member – resplendent as always in his trademark flamboyant style, manifested in blue shirt, tie and jacket – briefly enters the Space Theatre stage to introduce his good mate Phil Manning from Aussie band Chain.

A blues legend himself, Manning rips straight into some excellent acoustic finger-picking country blues, played with great tone and dexterity. This is the territory of Blind Blake and the inspiration for practically all modern blues, Robert Johnson, with due homage paid and stories told. Finnen joins in on a great version of ‘Ramblin’ on My Mind’, both players employing bottleneck slide to augment their finger picking style.

As Manning takes a break, it’s Finnen’s turn, this time on electric guitar, assisted by his regular sidemen, Frank Lang (bass), Trapper Draper (drums) and Ian Jeffries (percussion). The thing with Chris Finnen is that even as a Hall of Fame bluesman, he is totally unafraid to step well outside the boundaries to expand the possibilities of the genre. His lyrics are often cheekily amusing, his showmanship outstanding, but it’s the guitar that mesmerises as he wrenches every sound possible from six strings and an amplifier, via a few tastefully controlled effects pedals. Volume swells, echo loops, plucking at the strings up by the tuning pegs, feedback and harmonics – this master uses all the tricks, at one point creating sounds not unlike dolphins calling and sirens screaming, all with a distinctly indigenous feel. It’s powerful and spellbinding.

One of the highlights was ‘Sugar Mama’ his tribute to the great Rory Gallagher, a version which lost nothing by comparison to the sadly departed great Irishman. Straight out of left field came his version of ‘Pachelbel’s Canon’, something he has performed for many years, interwoven cleverly with the melody from ‘Waltzing Matilda’.

Manning is summoned back to the stage on electric guitar to start the run home, with a somewhat mediocre version of Hendrix classic ‘Hey Joe’, but order was quickly restored with a superb reading of Otis Rush standard ‘All Your Love’, made famous by John Mayall with the young Eric Clapton on guitar.

At first the two guitars didn’t quite work together, as Manning’s overdriven sound seemed to overpower Finnen’s cleaner more pure tone, but by the time ‘Blues With a Feeling’ unwinds, it’s all starting to come together nicely. The evening climaxes with a fine rendition of ‘Every Day I have the Blues’ with the frontmen and band now firing on all cylinders and ready to play into the night. The crowd was at fever pitch demanding more, but sadly there was no provision for encores. A slightly longer show would have been welcomed, but really it was an excellent performance by two Aussie greats and a perfect inclusion in this festival.






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