Leonard Cohen’s iconic song ‘Hallelujah’ may well be one of the greatest songs ever written. You can tell this by the sheer volume of artists who have covered it. If there’s one stand out rendition of the track then, most certainly, it is this one; Jeff Buckley performing live in Chicago, 1995.
Buckley’s cover of the song introduced the poetic prophet Cohen to many of his Generation X counterparts, as he added a stunning fragility and heartbreaking tenderness to Cohen’s usual rough vocal. In this performance, Buckley utterly captivates his audience.
Originally recorded by Leonard Cohen for his 1984 album Various Positions, ‘Hallelujah’ was one of Cohen’s most obtuse recordings. At points, rambling and at others spares, the human condition is enveloped in this track. But it was John Cale whose arrangement of the song would take it to the next level. After which, the song was perfectly ready for someone like Jeff Buckley to take it on.
‘Hallelujah’ has an ability, unlike many other songs. It has the ability to stop someone dead in their tracks. To hold them there until the final notes of the achingly beautiful song play out. But when the late Jeff Buckley is singing those notes the power of the track rings out for far longer.
Feature don his only full-length record, Grace, the track has become a folkloric moment in music history. But when Buckley performed the song live it became a whole new entity. It’s not just the singing that moves Buckley’s performance at the Cabaret Metro in Chicago, it is his guitar playing, which ranges on the virtuoso, as he delicately picks and manipulates the strings toward an ethereal journey.
When this combination of sumptuous vocals and intelligent and intricate guitar playing is met by the stunning visual of Buckley, standing without his band, with his eyes closed projecting his sonic prayer, it can become a little too much to take in.
It’s a simply stunning moment where music, as powerful as it is, controls the room and the silences the worries and fears, for a brief moment holding you, suspended in the air, and captivated within the notes.
Watch below, Jeff Buckley’s stunning performance of ‘Hallelujah’ in 1995 at the Cabaret Metro in Chicago.