Basically, I think I was, in
the beginning at least, the kind of fan Jeff
Buckley didn't want.
Like many who first came to his music, I was
indeed a fan of his late father, avant-rock cult
legend Tim Buckley, whose work I got into
posthumously when a rock critic named Dave DiMartino began to tirelessly mythologize him in
the dying days of the original CREEM magazine. Jeff, who shared his father's amazing pipes as
well as his good looks, began his solo musical career when he sang a couple of his dad's songs
at a Tim Buckley Tribute concert put together by Hal Willner in New York City, an event in
which, in his own mind, at least, he symbolically cut his ties to the musical legend of the father
he met only once.
After he'd issued Live At Sin-e in 1993, a four song solo EP consisting of Jeff on electric guitar
and vocals, I caught him and his newly formed rock band playing at Albert's Hall, a small blues
bar in Toronto. I've seen many a memorable rock show in my day, and this was right up there
amongst the best ever. Jeff obviously owed a stylistic debt to his father, especially evident in his
soaring, exploratory vocal approach that no doubt was part of his genetic inheritance, but
listening to him sing live, all that seemed totally beside the point. The point was, that here and
now, Jeff Buckley was magnificent: passionate, avant-garde yet accessible all at once. He
brought a new sensibility to a rock music scene that I felt was then going stale amidst the
defeatism of grunge. Buckley was ethereal, transcendent, yet also ballsy, and a very underrated
and unique electric guitar player. Above all, of course, he had The Voice. It was an intoxicating
Finally, Grace, Buckley's debut album, came out and, if it didn't quite capture the magic I'd
seen in that rock club, it came very close. I played it over and over and over, until I finally tired
of it, which was only a testament to its brilliance: Grace, in a musical time of often tedious irony
and insincere posturing, was like the sun bursting out from behind a bank of clouds, a musical
beacon. It remains one of the very best rock albums of the 1990s.
However, after seeing Buckley subsequently support the album with a less than magical set in a
church setting (he now claimed to be unsettled by the more traditional rock venues) I forgot about
him for awhile. The Buckley I saw in that church was a far more confused and uncertain fellow
than the guy who had rocked out unselfconsciously about six months earlier in the blues club.
He now seemed dissipated, passive-aggressive in demeanor, alternately precious and sulky, and
perhaps more troublingly, The Voice itself was slightly worse for the wear even at this early
Like Kurt Cobain, and like his father Tim, it seemed that Jeff..