Live a l'Olympia

by: Jeff Buckley

The morbid fascinations, myths, and legends that spring up around the untimely deaths of rock stars were phenomena that Jeff Buckley vehemently detested. In the wake of Buckley's own demise, his mother, Mary Guibert, along with his former bandmembers and fans, worked tirelessly to downplay the hyperbolic press the man and his music have endured. Surprisingly, the most successful move Guibert and company made to this end was to release a pair of incendiary live records, 2000's Mystery White Boy and 2001's import-only Live a l'Olympia. Recorded over two nights in July of 1995, the tapes that comprise l'Olympia are, even by Buckley's own usually self-deprecating estimate, the finest display of his talent as a consummate performer. His concerts -- and these two were no exception -- were transcendent; blistering, overwhelming, and ecstatic, they bordered on the supernatural. However, he could also croon tender love songs, and was often hilarious -- here he audibly (but lovingly) mimics the great Edith Piaf (keep in mind, he's in front of a French audience) and convincingly speeds through a truncated cover of Led Zeppelin's "Kashmir" at a simulated 45 rpm. Though the album was mastered from a soundboard cassette, the sound quality is excellent, making it relatively easy to overlook minor problems with fidelity, especially when considering the performance itself. Buckley and his band revel in the wild adoration of their fans (something they hadn't experienced prior to the Olympia gigs), and eventually reduce the crowd to a hushed, awe-inspired mass, more a congregation than an audience. Lest you balk at the import price tag the album carries, know that Buckley's live shows were the lifeblood of his music. On Live a l'Olympia, songs from his sole studio LP, Grace, as well as unreleased tracks and cover tunes, become entirely different entities, exploding and writhing with unrestrained passion, then calming in a solemn but reverential display of love and respect. In the end, l'Olympia is the best proof that Jeff Buckley's greatest legacy is his lust for life, dynamic personality, and -- above all -- his music. ~ Bryan Carroll

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