Jeff Buckley’s ascent to stardom has been bolstered by substantial MTV airplay of his latest single, “Last Goodbye,” and this sold-out gig at Metro caps his carefully orchestrated rise. His first Chicago appearances were the intimate solo coffeehouse shows de rigueur for breaking new acts in today’s industry. When he debuted his band a few months later, he played HotHouse and Green Mill, using high-visibility jazz venues to lend his distinctive rock music a rarefied air. After the release of his striking debut album, Grace (Columbia), he and his coddled image returned last fall for a pair of highly anticipated Green Mill shows. Unfortunately, the opening gig of this sold-out two-night stand found him thoroughly soused, a condition for which he annoyingly spent most of the evening apologizing. Possessed of extraordinary vocal abilities that range from the freedom-hugging extremes of his late father, the weirdo folk-rocker Tim Buckley, to the overwrought emotionalism of Robert Plant to cool-whisper cabaret crooning, he sings with the reckless abandon of a child running across a white carpet with a glass of tomato juice: sometimes it spills, sometimes it doesn’t. While limited in ability, his band plays with stunning intuition and tightness, stopping on a dime to delicately limn Buckley’s impulsive moves. After lots of practice at this rock-concert thing, Buckley’s proving to be well suited for and deserving of the spotlight. When he maintains a grip on his wildly fluttering muse he can connect with rare power and honesty, and if he curbs some youthful excesses he’ll be a major artist. Soul Coughing, the quasi-hip-hop, artsy-fartsy New York quartet fronted by the interminably dopey M. Doughty, open. Saturday, 7 PM, Metro, 3730 N. Clark; 549-0203.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): Photo/Brad Miller.