by CHERYL DUGGAN
Jeff Healey was a uniquely extraordinary musician. Despite having lost his sight to cancer at eight months Jeff learned to play the guitar on his lap. He soon became known as one of the world’s most celebrated guitarists. The concert at Massey Hall on Friday, May 27th was an attempt to honour the life and legacy of the late great Jeff Healey for what should have been his 50th birthday.
The first musician to take the stage was Phillip Sayce. Phillip had his first international tour experience as a member of the Jeff Healey Band. He credits Jeff as one of his idols and inspirations. We were sufficiently warned about the passion with which he plays when Phillip acknowledged he had blown out an amp during sound check. Thus began a night of guitar sounds from low painful groans to high pitched squeals.
Then The Trews honoured Jeff Healey by playing “While My Guitar Gently Weeps”, They would be familiar with Jeff’s music as they had been recruited by Jeff himself to be the house band at his bar Healey’s back in the day. The Trews ended their set appropriately with “Poor Ol Broken Hearted Me”.
The next musician to take to the stage was Sonny Landreth. He impressed the audience. If I didn’t know better (and I don’t) I would say this guy should theoretically have a third hand to hold the guitar. On his left hand Sonny wears a slide on his little finger, thereby allowing his other fingers more room to play behind the slide. Meanwhile, his right hand is busy tapping, slapping, and picking strings.
Meanwhile. Walter Trout had to have been the miracle appearance of the evening in more ways than one. First of all, Walter has survived life threatening liver disease and a hepatitis C diagnosis in 2013. Second, Walter played “Say Goodbye to The Blues” as a dedication to Jeff Healey. He actually changed the lyrics in one of the verses as a call (or shout out) to Jeff. The response … a single white feather floated to the floor at center stage of Massey Hall as soon as the song was finished.
A welcome surprise guest was Randy Bachman. He began his set with a bluesy rendition of Bachman Turner Overdrive’s “Ain’t Seen Nothin’ Yet” and ended it by bringing Jeff Healey’s guitar to center stage for a live performance of “Confessin’ To The Devil” which features a pre-recorded guitar solo by Jeff Healey.
Finishing up the individual performances, Albert Lee was nothing short of legendary. He began with a quip about being placed last on the set list because he was the oldest. His sense of humour took a back seat once he got down to the business of playing his Telecaster.
Finally, the finale. All the performers took to the Massey Hall stage. That included the Jeff Healey Band who had been doing a stellar job as back up musicians all evening. The closing song was Jeff Healey’s “Can You See The Light”. Based on what I witnessed Friday night, not only can Jeff Healey see the light, but he heard and appreciated every single note played in his honour.
*** If you would like to contribute to the charity that continues in Jeff Healey’s honour click the link http://wechope.org/give-hope/donate/ select the “Canada” tab and follow the instructions.