We gave it a C+
Jeff Buckley is turning into the Tupac Shakur of ’90s cult acts. If number of releases is any measure, the singer-songwriter has been much more prolific in death (by drowning, in 1997) than in life, with five posthumous recordings. Live at Sin-e continues the archival dig by expanding the original 26-minute 1993 EP to two and a half hours, which doesn’t do Buckley or his less committed fans any favors.
Preserved in this document of one of his prefame solo gigs at a New York City club is an overgenerous dose of his stage patter, even at its most inane. And though the double CD includes frequently moving turns on tunes associated with Bob Dylan (”If You See Her, Say Hello”), Leonard Cohen(”Hallelujah”), and Billie Holiday (”Strange Fruit”), it also falters due to Buckley’s overwrought homage to Pakistani sacred singer Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan and his tendency to stretch songs into epics as he searches for an epiphany that doesn’t always materialize. Buckley’s high-wire act was part of his appeal (he risked sounding foolish as he slowed tempos to a crawl or turned into a falsetto-voiced diva), and if he’d been allowed a bit more time on the planet, he might’ve figured out how to hone his prodigious vocal talent and genre-exploding passion. Who says death is a great career move?