In the mid-90’s, Jeff Buckley was more popular in countries such as England, France and Australia than he was in his own native America. And though having released only one album, his debut Grace (in 1994), fans were treated to a series of singles that were EP in length, each containing mostly live versions of tracks recorded while he was on tour. Live from the Bataclan is the exception, in that is does not include any studio tracks, and is taken completely from a live performance recorded in Paris, France, on 11th February 1995. And while Buckley himself disapproved of it, disciples will find much to rejoice in throughout these four tracks.
Opening with an atmospheric “Dream Brother”, one of Jeff’s most haunting compositions, his voice rises like an apparition above the crowd, as Mick Grondahl (bass), Michael Tighe (guitar) and Matt Johnson (drums) keep the song from disintegrating into the heavens. Buckley goes into guitar and vocal overdrive on a stirring 12 minute interpretation of Van Morrison’s “The Way Young Lovers Do”, not an easy song to sing, much less do justice to, but that he does with aplomb.
On “Medley”, consisting of “Je N’en Connais Pas la Fin” and “Hymne á l’mour”, Buckley really gets the audience going, who cheer and applaud after almost every verse, no doubt distracting the singer in the process. It’s one of those ‘you had to be there’ moments obviously, but an enjoyable one for those in attendance.
The disc concludes with a ten minute rendition of Leonard Cohen‘s “Hallelujah”, throughout which Jeff puts his angelic tonsils to good effect, so much so that it sounds as though the crowd have finally quietened down after Buckley’s Edith Piaf cover, with just his chiming, cathedral-like guitar and that voice, beguiling in its beauty, and mesmerising in its otherworldly majesty. At the end, the audience roar with approval, revealing that this was likely an encore.
Out of all the EPs issued during Buckley’s lifetime, Live from the Bataclan provides the listener with a brief but exclusive snapshot of his 1995 world tour. How he could play the same songs night after night, and yet still manage to infuse each performance with a certain vitality and sparkle, is in itself remarkable. What this document demonstrates is that on this night, the singer successfully captured the hearts and minds of many of those in attendance, as evidenced by their enthusiastic responses along the way, something which those of us who weren’t privy to, shall always be allowed to enjoy.