Lindsey Buckingham Right At Home in Lebanon

Lindsey Buckingham/Lebanon Opera House/Lebanon, New Hampshire/12 October 2008

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.

Pat Green Makes His Crossover Case

patgreen.jpg Pat Green
Pearl Street
September 7, 2007

With Kid Rock, Sheryl Crow and Uncle Kracker crossing over to country, it’s way past time for rock music to return the favor and make Pat Green the kind of national-level star he is in his home state of Texas.

Thursday night’s show at Pearl Street in Northampton had the requisite bona fides of a good country show, with more than a few cowboy hats in the crowd. But when the local honky tonk radio station emcee introduced Green and his band, she shouted “are you ready to rock?”

The lanky dirty blond guitarist is a worthy heir to Bob Seger, with a dusty tenor and easygoing stage manner that belies his punchy rock and roll sound. His five-piece band muscled through a set that proved just how conflated southern fried Skynyrd boogie and arena country music have become.

The blue state rednecks ate it up. When he kicked the show into gear with “Cannonball,” the title track from his first release for new label BNA, Green answered with a call to “tear down the wall.” With three electric guitars backing him, the sonic boom might have done it.

Talented fiddle player Billy Matthews gave early hits “Texas on My Mind” and “Three Days” a nice rustic touch, the latter made more charming by Green’s amiable banter about how his wife “used to love that song, now – nothing.”

Despite the classic rock vibe pervasive on the stage, Green’s Texas roots were never far from view, particularly on “Here We Go,” a song from his early “Live at Billy Bob’s Texas” that name checked Lone Star and Shiner Bock Beer. On “Southbound 35,” guitarist Chris Suoka snapped out leads like Eddie Van Halen while Green sang, “I got Texas in my soul.”

Equally incongruous but immensely entertaining was the selection of Prince’s “Raspberry Beret” mid-set. “That’s probably the strangest thing you’ll ever hear me play,” cracked Green, but what’s truly bizarre is just how well a fiddle fit into the funked-up song.

When he hews to the edges where country and rock meet, Green makes a strong case for the renown lavished on performers like Kenny Chesney and Rascal Flatts. “Carry On,” a perfectly crafted track from Green’s first studio album, the semi-hit “Wave on Wave” from the album of the same name and “Baby Doll” from “Lucky Ones” (his final UMG release) are all sadly neglected outside the Lone Star State.

It’s a problem that performers like Kelly Willis and others solve simply by staying in Texas, but Green doesn’t seem so inclined. On Thursday, he explained his slowness catching on nationally: “My record company sucked.” There’s much hope that he’ll reach a larger audience with“Cannonball.” “Feels Like It Should” is making motion in the country charts, but like much of Pat Green’s repertoire, the Mellencamp-esque song has the elements to jump the rock and roll firewall.

While he waits for that break, Green soldiers on with his talented young band, opening shows for Dave Matthews as well as Kenny Chesney, and working the northern dance halls to small, but grateful crowds.