May 30 2016 – It’s hard to believe it’s been eight years since we lost beloved blues guitar great Jeff Healey to cancer. An extraordinary collection of musicians came together on Friday night at Massey Hall to celebrate the life of Jeff Healey, Toronto’s blues rock virtuoso who died in 2008, who would celebrated his 50th birthday this year. The show included performances by Philip Sayce, Shakura S’Aida, The Trews, Sonny Landreth, Walter Trout, Randy Bachman and Albert Lee. The proceeds from the show went to World Eye Cancer Hope. Roger Costa, co-executor of Healey’s estate, MC’d the event, introducing each band during the extremely brief changeovers. It was amazing how the show flowed from set to set with only a couple minutes between performers.
Sayce kicked off the night with some playing some searing solo blues before being joined by his band, including Joe Rockman, bassist in Jeff Healey’s band. They covered the Floyd Jones classic On The Road Again, made famous by Canned Heat, returning the song to its bluesy origins. But the crowd’s enthusiasm was kicked into high gear by the cover of ZZ Top’s slow blues of Blue Jean Blues which brought the crowd to its feet for the first of many standing ovations. Joined by The Alumni Band including Jerome Godboo on harmonica and Chris Cadell on guitar, solos were traded for the Further On Up The Road.
Shakura S’Aida followed and sang some rousing blues, including her song (Don’t Try to Lay No Boogie Woogie on the) Oueen of Rock n Soul, a play on the Long Long Baldry song Don’t Try To Lay No Boogie Woogie On The King Of Rock & Roll. S’Aida was also supported by the Donnie Walsh of the Downchild Blues Band.
The Trews followed and played the first rock of the night, including covers of While My Guitar Gently Weeps that Jeff Healey, most who read this would obvoiusly know, famously covered himself and The Yardbirds’ Shapes of Things. THy cosed their three song set with their own song Poor Ol’ Broken Hearted Me, probably their most recognizable song and biggest hit. It was interesting to see Gavin McGuire, Little Foot Long Foot’s drummer, as The Trews’ new drummer behind the kit. The Trews’ Colin MacDonald produced LFLF’s EP Woman. The Trews connection with LFLF began with Jeff Heisholt, The Trews’ touring keyboardist, who joined LFLF in 2012.
In a night of guitar virtuosos, none surpassed Sonny Landreth. We interviewed Sonny Landreth back in 2012 after his show at Hugh’s Room. Landreth was promoting his newly released album Elemental Journey, a jazz fusion guitar pioneer. It was incredible to hear him play the first two songs of pure blues. His third was more in the feel of Elemental Journey and he too had the crowd on their feet for a standing ovation.
The blues returned with Walter Trout who was the great discovery for us as we were unfamiliar with the American blues guitarist, but who had played with John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers and had toured with Jeff Healey. Trout was joined by Cadell on guitar. Cadell is one the great underknown players. Underknown, but fortunately not unknown, he is often supporting other acts, like Colin James but also plays locally on a regular basis at places like Lou Dawg’s.
Surprise guest Randy Bachman followed and talked about recording with Healey. In the most poignant moment of the show, Bachman played a song, Confessing To The Devil, that he recorded with Healey and brought Healey’s guitar on stage for the song. The song closed with Healey’s recorded solo to the song.
Albert Lee closed the show with some great songs including a cover of Fats Domino’s I’m Ready. The final song had all participants on stage to perform Jeff Healey’s biggest hit See The Light, from his 1988 debut album of the same name. It was a night that no one in attendance will ever forget.
Review by Steve Mallinson
Photographs provided by Mark Gommer