Guess Who, Ballin’ Jack: Convention Center, Anaheim

CANADA’S GUESS Who radiated indifference at the Anaheim Convention Center Friday night.

Its music is an undistinguished pastiche of mainstream rock ‘n’ roll’s most frequently recurring clichés. It reminds a little of a lot of other groups. Spirit, Steppenwolf and Moby Grape. Not even its name, which originally belonged to a studio group comprising members of the Who and British singer Johnny Kidd, is its own.

Musically mundane though they may be, it might be enjoyable in concert if it projected anything resembling enthusiasm. The most exciting thing that happened during the Anaheim concert was when lead-howler Burton Cummings lit a cigarette prior to ‘Undun’. Given its reluctance to exert, itself, Cummings’ frequent lyrical posturings (as in ‘We’re Coming to Dinner’) are simply rather laughable.

It is yet another testament to the fickleness of the Fates that this definitively unexceptional lot has achieved enormous commercial success, a fact of which Cummings reminded us incessantly Friday night. They’re decent musicians, but the essential question that must be asked about them is: Why even bother?

Much better received was Seattle’s Ballin’ Jack. This sextet is a little too obviously imitative of Sly & Co., but work so indefatigably at communicating its joy to the audience that it eventually wins over even the most reluctant of skeptics.

It plays everything from Mother-ish cacophonies to straight Dixieland with more than enough enthusiasm to compensate for its lack of genuine virtuosity. Additionally, it bangs its percussion instruments in synchronization and does stereo horn ducts on stage.

All it needs to become a giant local favorite is a lead singer.

© John MendelssohnLos Angeles Times, 26 May 1970

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