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Just Like St. Joan
on 13 August 2000
Jeff Buckley fans are very lucky to have this sort of a DVD release. It took me a while to really become a Jeff Buckley fan (and now there is no turning back). I remember first borrowing an advance copy of Grace back in 1994 and being seduced by the easily loved Hallelujah (who didn't?) and also So Real, but the rest of that album proved I was unready for such a unique singer. Later on, after Sketches for My Sweetheart the Drunk came out, I became much more interested. Mystery White Boy further solidified my fascination for his way of doing things, and now, with this Live In Chicago DVD, I am completely convinced. A little late, I admit. I wonder, while writing this review, if this is the best place to start, for the new-comer. I think it is. Some might initially be turned off by his fluctuating vocals, but later, I guarantee, that will be precisely what you love about him. His compassionate yodels range from a pigeons coo, to a hyena's laugh, to a goldfish burble, to a puma's roar. And his guitar playing can trigger memories of This Mortal Coil, The Mission, and Johnny Marr (he makes two Smiths references on this DVD, one of which is a parody of a Morrissey-style song about policemen! And on Mystery White Boy he welds I Know It's Over to Hallelujah). Whatever hints of influences glisten through his songs, they are undoubtedly his, meaning: It sounds like Jeff Buckley. He and his band bleed through their instruments to produce a dizzying sonic sweep through the central nervous system. And to see this is amazing. His lyrics are the type that take you a while to realize he is lamenting a certain part of your own life (or at least that's how it feels). Lines like, "My Kingdom for a kiss upon her shoulder" are so intimate and so precise, you wonder why nobody has come up with it before. And I can't help but wonder when he sings "Father do you hear me, do you know me, do you even care?" (What Will You Say) if he is singing to his father, Tim Buckley, who he did not know.
If you are like me and you enjoy hearing different interpretations to songs you already like, then you will love this film. Notable spots are the strange and hypnotic rendering of Big Star's 1975 hit Kangaroo where he ferociously barks, "You're just like Saint Joan..." with sweat dripping from his hair (on Mystery White Boy he barely whispers the same line, mind you), then after the song is pretty much over, he jams wildly unlike any way you can imaging being appropriate for such a song and does this for some time, ending up by the speakers, playing to them creating the type of feedback you'd expect at a Crazy Horse audition. Then there is the surprise Kick Out The Jams, featuring a goofy guy named Crazy Dave (or something) sharing the vocals then doing the un-Grace-ful bellyflop into the front three rows (I think that sort of stunt is always better witnessed on film than in real life, for obvious reasons). Then again, the audience deserved that sort of hurl. They spend most of the time between songs begging for Jeff to play Hallelujah, and he seems bothered by it. He eventually gives them a piece of his mind (which I will not describe) and seems to play most of the remaining set behind closed eyes, as if, for himself.
The DVD is coupled with a documentary/interview that is captivating. He speaks so tenderly about music, like some do about love. And throughout are performances that are equally haunting. Not to mention the two acoustic versions.
Don't listen to those other people. It's good, get it.