Tribute: Jeff Buckley, Dream Brother

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

mix.

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

stage.

Like Kurt Cobain, and like his father Tim, it seemed that Jeff..