Live at Sin-é
The Music Box's #6 specialty package for 2003
First Appeared at The Music Box, January 2004, Volume 11, #1
Written by John Metzger
At the time of his accidental death in 1997, Jeff Buckley’s career was just getting underway. The critically acclaimed Grace was his only studio album, and he had been struggling through the sessions that led to his posthumously released sophomore effort Sketches for My Sweetheart the Drunk when he made that fateful decision to take a swim in the mighty Mississippi. His only other outing was a short, four-song introductory EP titled Live at Sin-é, which had been culled from material recorded in August 1993 at the now fabled coffee club in New York City’s East Village. At the time, the album served its purpose quite well, exposing the raw talent of a rising star, but what was left on the cutting room floor paints a far more vivid picture and better captures Buckley’s personality than any of his other outings.
Fortunately, as part of its new deluxe series of reissues, Legacy Recordings has remastered and significantly expanded upon the original Live at Sin-é, which now spans a pair of discs that contain nearly two hours and forty minutes of material from the August 1993 concert as well as one in July. However, it’s not the quantity of bonus tracks that makes this package one of the must-have reissues of the year; it’s the quality of the performances contained therein. In short, they are absolutely stunning. The entire collection features just Buckley and his guitar, delivering his songs as they were meant to be sung. His banter with the audience is playful, light-hearted, and fun, and his stream-of-consciousness musings ramble from a request for more reverb into a half-joking snippet from The Doors’ The End, and from a comment about not wanting to be told he looks like Matt Dillon into a bit on classic rock radio. This joviality stands in stark contrast to the dead-seriousness of his music, which is frighteningly potent, particularly within such an intimate setting.
Of the 21 songs contained on Live at Sin-é, only 5 were written by Buckley, but each is a gem that highlights his wide-ranging vision for the power that music can wield. He was an extraordinarily talented songwriter, and one can only speculate as to where he might have wound up had he survived. As for the rest of the tunes, they form the touchstone of his influences — Bob Dylan, Van Morrison, Nina Simone, Billie Holiday, Led Zeppelin, Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, and Leonard Cohen, to name a few — and all of it is held together by his remarkably enchanting and soulful delivery. As effortless as each track appears on its surface, a closer listen reveals a man who constantly struggled with himself to achieve his high standards of absolute perfection. Unattainable, perhaps, but Buckley was closer than he ever imagined. His is a rare gift, one that is best experienced in the comfortable confines of his home turf. Fortunately, Live at Sin-é captures his brilliance in all its graceful glory.
Live at Sin-é [Original Album] —
Bonus Materials —
Live at Sin-é [Deluxe Edition] —
Of Further Interest...
Live at Sin-é [Legacy Edition] is available from
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1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!
Copyright © 2003 The Music Box