Jeff Healey at the Macauley

By Michael Campbell

Mention Jeff Healey to a guitar player and he or she will probably respond with something like: "the blind guy who plays the hell out of the guitar holding it across his lap." And this is true, as far as it goes.

Although most guitarists profess admiration for the blistering esoteric snarl that Healey can generate, some suspect that his technique is dependent upon certain conditions, like high gain and high volume. I must enviously concede that this is not true. He can do it on acoustic guitar, too. And very well. His technique applies the left hand to the guitar neck in an overhand fashion, yielding two important benefits. The first is that all four fingers plus thumb can be employed to fret the notes, an almost pianistic approach. The other is that the conventional reach of the guitarist's chording hand is no longer constrained to the distance between the forefinger and pinky, but instead uses the reach between the pinky and the thumb. This enables Healey to exploit some unusual intervals at very high speed.

So much for the technical stuff. The better news is that Healey has the intensity, taste and soul to deliver the goods, which he did from start to finish on June 2 in front of a restless, packed Macauley Theatre. Drawing upon material such as "Stop Breakin' Down" from his new release Cover to Cover, as well as old favorites such as "See the Light" and an acoustic "Angel Eyes," Jeff powered through a satisfying 90 minutes, backed by a solid backup band that never forgot who the star was. Pat Russ' stinging slide guitar provided sufficient panache to provide Jeff with positive competition.

The Friday-night crowd seemed to enjoy the band's ripping through interesting compositions including Mark Knopfler's "I Think I Love You Too Much," Jimi Hendrix's "Angel," and a pumped-up middle eight for John Lennon's "Yer Blues," but only came to full boil during the encore, Freddy King's classic "Hideaway," which Healey began solo and finished with band and audience stomping as one.