In its heyday, Grant Lee Buffalo’s music struck an uncanny—sometimes uncomfortable—balance between widescreen expansiveness and intense intimacy. The songs of Grant-Lee Phillips, as realized by the trio of Phillips (guitar, vocals), Paul Kimble (bass), and Joey Peters (drums), were worlds where and the smallest gestures cast grand shadows and epic thoughts unraveled into pointed details. Among the most acclaimed outfits of their era, Grant Lee Buffalo lasted from just 1991 until 1998, producing four revered albums plus a box set retrospective, all which continues to resonate and reach new audiences. Grant Lee Buffalo’s concert performances were similarly beloved, with the trio’s dynamic interplay and Phillips’s captivating vocals more than compensating for their stripped-down instrumentation.
Until recently, the original lineup of Grant Lee Buffalo had not performed on stage together since 1996. Yet, throughout the fifteen years since what they thought was their final performance, interest in a reunion mounted. And not just among fans. “Enough time had passed,” explains Peters. “We realized that the three of us share a synergy together that is very unique and special—we weren’t finished exploring that.”
“A lot of it was inspired by the urging of our fans, their loyalty and a whole new generation of listeners who’ve come to embrace the band,” adds Phillips. “But there was also a shared interest among the three of us, a curiosity about what it might feel like to play together after all of these years.”
Their abilities and sensibilities enriched by fifteen years of subsequent experiences, musical and otherwise, the three gathered for preliminary rehearsals that were anything but tentative. “As we began the first day, running through the songs, it was like no time had passed since 1994,” says Peters, “except that we were each better players and so we produced a better version.” They quickly agreed to a series of reunion performances. “None of us knew at first,” Phillips explains. “I think we were all knocked out by the force unleashed in our little practice room. We were aching to play a show that first night.”
The reformed Grant Lee Buffalo embarked on select shows 2011, and a triumphant return to London’s Royal Festival Hall was recorded. To be digitally released on April 8, 2013, the 80-minute “Live At Royal Festival Hall is gripping evidence of the both the band’s classic repertoire and their continued growth. Longtime favorites such as “Jupiter and Teardrop” and “Bethlehem Steel” are unleashed with an intensity, clarity, and depth of feeling unimaginable fifteen years ago. Peters and Kimble deftly marshal the band’s energy, rising and falling as Phillips wholly immerses himself into the characters and landscapes. Together, they prove the timelessness of their original vision by finding inspired new dimensions within the frameworks of Phillips’ compositions.
“Returning to London, headlining the Royal Festival Hall was a huge thing for us,” Phillips reflects.” All these years bottled up, all of this music and energy being released; you feel that on this recording. We’re a better band today. We’ve got less gear but we’re better players—probably better people, too.”