The Tim Buckley Archives


The Guardian (UK)
Friday, September 28, 2001

A Celebration Of Tim Buckley

by Alexis Petridis

The posthumous cult of American singer-songwriter Tim Buckley is a remarkable phenomenon. Twenty-six years after his death from a heroin overdose, Buckley's influence hangs heavy over the British music scene. Bands name themselves after his meagre-selling albums. Tonight they are literally queuing up to pay homage, performing a Buckley number and a song "inspired" by him.

Strangely, most of the artists who claim the late singer's influence sound nothing like him. It's difficult to imagine music more different than Starsailor's plodding trad rock and the testing free jazz and yodelling vocals of the album from which they took their name.

In fact, one suspects that the constant name-dropping has more to do with Buckley's beguiling image as a wide-eyed mystic and musical savant - a Van Morrision who never grew fat, old and bald - than with his records. He may be less an influence than a mere signifier.

Initially, the show confirms your worst fears about the Buckley cult. Quite why some of these artists are here remains a mystery. Irish funk rockers Relish appear to be paying tribute to Toploader. Lowgold trudge doggedly through Sing a Song for You. "We're supposed to play something of ours inspired by Tim Buckley, so here's a song with a funny little keyboard on it," offers their singer, uselessly.

Things pick up when Anglo-Indian vocalist Susheela Raman links a yearning, aged southern Indian lament to Buckley's celebrated Song to the Siren: "Same sentiment, same mood, just 300 years older," she quips. Same vocal gymnastics, too. Jane Siberry's cover of So Lonely is appropriately mysterious and darkly sexy.

Badly Drawn Boy collaborates with Buckley sideman Danny Thompson. His onstage faffing is sharply chastised by the veteran bass player, but the eventual Phantasmagoria in Two has an irreverent charm.

The evening's biggest surprise comes from Embrace singer Danny McNamara, a man reviled for possessing a tuneless foghorn of a voice. Incredibly, his reading of Morning Glory is delicate, tender and entirely in the right key. The audience offers stunned applause.

Contrary to expectations, both McNamara and tonight's concert have proved a minor success.

© 2001 Petridis/The Guardian


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