Kennedy honored Buckley by playing Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah,” the song that Buckley transformed into his own signature thanks to a deeply soulful rendition comprising nothing but Buckley’s voice and warm, sparse guitar. Kennedy made the dedication because Alter Bridge was at the same venue where Buckley recorded what became the 2001 posthumous album Live A L’Olympia, and he also had the luck of using Buckley’s famed Fender Telecaster for the occasion.
According to information posted alongside Alter Bridge’s YouTube video of the performance, it was the first time “Hallelujah” had been played on that Telecaster in public since Buckley had done so. Buckley drowned in May 1997 at the age of 30 while swimming in the Wolf River Harbor of the Mississippi River. Live A L’Olympia was compiled from two concerts he did at the venue in July 1995.
“I’m going to do something I haven’t done in a quite a while,” says Kennedy while strumming a moody intro on the guitar. “This song was played here over 20 years ago by a gentleman that was probably one of my biggest influences and a number of other people’s as well. We owe a great debt to Mr. Jeff Buckley. A great f–kin’ debt.”
Kennedy has long included “Hallelujah” in his acoustic gigs as a solo act, and his touching, reverent version of it is comparable to Buckley’s. This was the first time the song was played during this Alter Bridge tour, and he was clearly emotional while performing it.
The Walk the Sky Tour will end in Europe on Saturday (Dec. 21). Alter Bridge returns to the United States for more dates starting Jan. 31 at Golden Nugget Lake Charles Hotel & Casino in Lake Charles, La. The tour ends Feb. 27 at the Knitting Factory in Spokane, Wash.