I was first introduced to Jeff Healey via the 1989 action movie “classic” Roadhouse, which stars Patrick Swayze, in his prime, as James Dalton the best bouncer in the business – who just so happens to have a Ph.D. in philosophy to complement his good looks and martial arts skills. Swayze is the head bouncer at the redneck waterin’ hole, The Double Deuce, whose house band just so happens to be The Jeff Healey Band. Throughout the movie, you get to see them tear through parts of a few blues-rock classics including "Roadhouse Blues", and "Hoochie Coochie Man". I was not only stunned by the incredible performances of these songs, but also by the ferocious guitar sounds that were emanating from this blind, young, white, Canadian up on stage who was playing his Stratocaster as it lay across his lap.
For those of you who are unaware, Healey lost his sight to eye cancer at the age of one, and began playing guitar when he was merely three years old. By the age of 17, he was performing with his band Blues Direction, and later formed The Jeff Healey Trio, in 1985, with bassist Joe Rockman and drummer Tom Stephen, who are both still with him. His incredible guitar technique is indeed more than just a novelty, and this DVD aptly demonstrates that Healey has as much firepower as any blues-rock guitarist in the business.
Live At Montreux was filmed on July 3, 1999 and features The Jeff Healey Band blazing through 10 songs from their 1988 debut See The Light, on up through their 1995 Cover To Cover album. The only album that was completely ignored, for some reason, was 1992’s Feel This, which happens to be one of their best. Although the entire performance was outstanding, the show really ended with a bang with Healey’s ripping take on the Doors’ "Roadhouse Blues" which led right into the whah-soaked intro to his tour-de-force "See The Light". Healey has a charming rapport with the audience and after breaking a string while performing some ungodly bends during "Roadhouse" he gets up and leads the crown in a sing-along of the verse "…and I got myself a beer!".
He comes back out for an encore performance of the Willie Dixon classic "Hoochie Coochie Man" which completely shames any version that Eric Clapton has performed in the last 20 years. It certainly doesn’t hurt matters that Healey has surrounded himself with other exceptional guitarists to round out his touring bands. Pat Rush joined him on guitar for this tour, and added some exceptional lead and slide guitar that was as instrumental to the performances as Healey’s own guitar work.
As good as the main feature was, the four bonus songs from Healey’s 1997 Montreux appearance were even better. Joining Healey on guitar, this time around, was a young, fellow-Canadian, guitar-ace named Philip Sayce, who nearly stole the show with his lead guitar and vocal work on the funky "Put The Shoe On The Other Foot". Rounding out the set was Healey’s wonderful take on the George Harrison classic "While My Guitar Gently Weeps". Overall, the band seemed a little more passionate and energized during this set.
This is another recent Live At Montreux DVD release that features exceptional production quality. It is one of the few DVDs I have reviewed where I can simply say that the audio and video quality were just about perfect. You’ve got DTS, Dolby Digital 5.1 surround, and PCM stereo to choose from, and they all sound amazing. The picture was crystal clear and as sharp as a razor. The lighting was exceptional and the camera work made you lose yourself in the performance. The only down side was the lack of any additional special features.
I haven’t really kept up with Jeff Healey since Cover To Cover, but this DVD has certainly renewed my interest – although he hasn’t released a new album since 2000’s Get Me Some. I hope to hear more from him in the near future.
My Little Girl
Stop Breakin’ Down
I Think I Love You Too Much
Stuck In The Middle With You
See The Light
Hoochie Coochie Man
Bonus Songs ’97
As The Years Go Passing By
That’s What They Say
Put The Shoe On The Other Foot
While My Guitar Gently Weeps
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