Midway through Lindsey Buckingham’s sold-out show Sunday night, he spoke about the tension that exists in making music for a “selling machine,” and working from what he termed “the left side of the palate.”
“I think one helps the other,” he said. “The audience for the ‘other’ is – you.”
Though obviously a reference to solo projects like the recently released “Gift of Screws,” Buckingham’s “left palate” includes a few turns his group Fleetwood Mac have taken away from their hit-making formula over the years.
The singer/guitarist evenly divided the evening’s music between solo material and Mac songs, but stayed esoteric, saving the big hits for the end of the show.
An enthusiastic crowd was with him for every note.
He opened with two songs from the new album, the frenetic “Great Day” and “Love Runs Deeper,” followed by a pair from his earlier solo works (“Trouble” and “Go Insane”),
The clearest indication that Lindsey Buckingham’s iconoclastic, left-leaning palate was on display came with the first Fleetwood Mac selection of the evening – “Tusk,” the title track of the 1979 album that confounded the music industry, and more than a few fans, who expected another “Rumours.”
He followed it with the poppy “I Know I’m Not Wrong” (also from “Tusk”), and the title cut from “Gift of Screws,” an Emily Dickinson poem turned punk rave-up.
A three-song acoustic interlude surprisingly provided the strongest guitar pyrotechnics of the night. A slightly revved-up “Never Going Back Again” (an overlooked “Rumours” gem) gave way to “Big Love,” a percolating boogie first stripped down for “The Dance,” Fleetwood Mac’s 1997 live reunion album.
The solo turn ended with “Shut Us Down,” as Buckingham’s fingers ranged up and down his guitar’s fret board with the finesse of Leo Kottke, taking the poignant song from a whisper to a scream.
The intimate opera house booking provided a special opportunity to see a performer usually at home in arenas and, during the heady 1970’s, baseball stadiums. At times, the room seemed too small to contain him.
Several in the crowd reacted like smitten teenagers, rushing the stage and standing for the entire show.
For “World Turning,” drummer Alfredo Reyes tried his best Mick Fleetwood impression, flailing the drums with his bare hands, but came up a bit short. What followed – a brief hip-hop excursion using Buckingham’s sampled voice – was equally unnecessary.
But all was forgiven with the incendiary “So Afraid,” which brought the entire crowd to its feet, where they stayed for the first finale, “Go Your Own Way.”
His three-song encore included the infectious Mac classic, “Second Hand News,” along with “Don’t Look Down” and “Treason.” Buckingham was quick to point out that the latter song, the final track on the new album, had nothing to do with current events, but was more about “the lies we tell each other.”
As the night progressed, Buckingham opened up to the adoring crowd, and his stories grew longer and more personal. “You’re blessed to live in a beautiful place,” he said at one point. “It’s transcendent.”
He was clearly having a great time, and after a feeble attempt to say good night, obliged demands for a second encore. To the delight of everyone, he played an audience request, “Bleed To Love Her” (from Fleetwood Mac’s last studio album, “Say You Will”).
While he waited for a roadie to deliver a different guitar with a special tuning, he bantered with fans, and even signed a proffered copy of “Buckingham/Nicks” – the pre-Fleetwood Mac album he did with Stevie Nicks 35 years ago.
It was a neat closing of the circle, on a night that left everyone, band and fans alike, satisfied beyond expectations.