JEFF BECK at Massey Hall, March 16. Tickets: $44.50-$54.50. Attendance: 2,600 (sold out). Rating: NNNNN Rating: NNNN
as rock cliches go, that old howler about how you really have to see a certain performer live to get it ranks just slightly behind "It's not about the money." Of course, there are exceptions. Matt Johnson probably thought the pop world should know about Hank Williams Sr. despite his tribute album's inevitable commercial tanking. And you just haven't absorbed the guitartistry of Jeff Beck until you've seen him gig.
Filing his only Canadian date on his current tour Friday at Massey Hall, the eerily ageless Brit set the tone early by launching with Earthquake, the electronic spazz-out that also opens his forward-marching new You Had It Coming disc.
Despite a sprawling catalogue dating back 30 years, Beck tours new albums to quote new albums. Even the keeners in floor seats anxiously clutching binoculars for a sharper look at Beck's hands (extreme close-ups aired on two overhead screens weren't enough, evidently) must credit the former Yardbird for refusing to be an oldies machine.
But while Beck -- and the multilingual voices he wrung from his Fender Strat's pedals and strings -- was the undisputed hero, his backing trio was key to the equation, particularly guitarist Jennifer Batten.
Stepping up to add saucy moans to Dirty Mind and full-on, bourbon-soaked vocals to Rollin' And Tumblin', Batten added a human dimension to the concert, which at times spiralled off into a kind of otherworldly instrumental symphony. And she raised the total chick count in the joint to 30, easy.
Points also to bassist Randy Hope-Taylor, whose playful collisions with the compact, heads-down Beck underscored just how much fun everyone was having.
By the time the crew shook loose the Beatles' A Day In the Life, there wasn't a motionless noggin' in the house.