Like a bull in the arena, the critic occosionally surrenders his ears to a higher cause. At Constitution Hall last night, guitar legend Jeff Beck riffed and roared, cut fiery swaths through the innocent air and more than once thrust a killing blow into the mind's ear. It was worth it, but barely.

In their best moments, Beck and his band validated the leader's excursions beyond his rock-blues roots. "The Pump" started off like the coming of the Visigoths, but Beck built on solid layers of involved and evolved semi improvisations. On the blues-based "'Cause We've Ended as Lovers," he left tense and sinewy tracks for the audience to appreciate.On "Freeway Jam," a clever introductory cacophony caught the spirit of the title before degenerating into pedestrian riffing.

The weakness of the show came in the general lack of mesmerizing material. Beck pit the strengths of his immense technique against the challenge of new forms, and had enough technique left over to rent out. But too much was lost last night as the band thought it had been rerouted to the Capital Centre and played accordingly loud. In fact, they were probably heard out there. It hurt not only the ears but also the music.