Lindsey Buckingham at City Winery Chicago | Review and photos
With the massive success of Fleetwood Mac hovering over his head, it took a couple of decades for Lindsey Buckingham’s status as an honest to goodness grade-A auteur to sink in. Sure, he always earned and deserved credit for revitalizing the British blues band as a Cali rock force, but despite the considerable talents of his cohorts, somewhere along the line Buckingham became the least expendable member of the bunch, his vision vital to keeping the group focused even when it sometimes seemed to be sending it off track. That’s one reason why the wayward but wondrous Tusk (with its curious “special thanks from the band to Lindsey Buckingham” credit) has become many fans’ dark horse favorite: What was once misread as indulgence turned out to be innovation, and Buckingham hasn’t really taken the safe route since.
Admittedly, Buckingham’s perfectionist tendencies do a great job disguising, if not suppressing, the strange, which is why catching him live is a unique opportunity to see his numerous hits, misses and never-had-a-shots stripped down to their essence, often remodulated by the master outside of their more familiar studio contexts. Indeed, watching Lindsey Buckingham—tan, fit and in strong voice at 62—perform a solo set at the City Winery Sunday night, the first of two shows, it was remarkable how much he was able to bring across with just his voice and guitar, minus most of the fussy (albeit cool) Baroque ornamentation that has marked Buckingham’s work both within and without Fleetwood Mac.
As a matter of fact, three of Buckingham’s six solo albums arrived in the last few years alone, revealing not just a guy still operating at the peak of his creative powers but increasingly comfortable and confident in his position: The former high-strung control freak is apparently now content, which in Buckingham’s case means a renewed dedication to writing, recording and live performance, embracing what he calls the symbiotic "small machine” of his solo career to Fleetwood Mac’s “big machine.”
Buckingham’s evolution as a solo artist may best be encapsulated by the frantic rendition of “Big Love” he debuted back during Fleetwood Mac’s 90s reunion and continues to play, a speedy showcase full of precise filigrees that not only never fails to impress, but also underscores the power of one man in perfect tune with his instrument of choice. Likewise Buckingham’s favored arrangements of his neo-hits from the ‘80s “Go Insane” and “Trouble” jettisoned the trappings of the era for a starker effect that highlighted their insidious paranoia and introspective beauty, respectively. And when Buckingham did dip into the Mac well, he was as surprisingly effective doing justice to such ensemble works as “Go Your Own Way” and “Come” as he was performing the spare “Never Going Back Again” and “Stephanie,” the latter an instrumental from the inexplicably out-of-print 1973 Buckingham/Nicks LP.
With his fingers dancing across countless open tunings that bridged classical tropes with folk, his guitar ringing like a harpsichord one moment and raging the next, Buckingham drew a diverse array of sounds from his instrument, some ugly enough to be completely at odds with the classy dine-and-wine venue he was playing. And that’s Buckingham’s gift in a nutshell: He’s smooth enough to convince you to let him in, but there’s a mischievous glint that appears in his eyes when he inevitably drops the front and starts going nuts.