Lindsey Buckingham, The Neighborhood Theatre, July 31, 2012

>> Wednesday, August 01, 2012

At one point during a lull between two songs, the guy in the seat on the other side of ScatterKat told her about a grim era I'd forgotten all about: how, in the late '80s, Lindsey Buckingham decided to quit Fleetwood Mac, so Fleetwood Mac replaced him with two guys.

That's how they had to do it, see? If they were going to go on. (They shouldn't have tried.)

It's worth starting with that whole disgraceful episode for the same reason last night's concert at the Neighborhood Theatre--"An Evening With Lindsey Buckingham--Solo", they called it--reminded me of an old story Keith Richards told about hearing Robert Johnson for the first time. Back in the 1960s, there was a British LP reissue of a bunch of the old studio recordings Johnson had done in 1936-1937, and someone--I can't remember if Richards said it was Brian Jones or not--played this record for Richards, and while listening to it, Richards asked who it was. "Robert Johnson," they said, and Richards replied, "No, I mean the other guy."

If you don't immediately get that: there was no "other guy". Just Robert Johnson. One guitar. One take. Overdubs not even invented yet, so forget about it.

And this is Lindsey Buckingham: you want to know who the other guy is, and then you see him playing, and there is no other guy. He's someone you've got to replace with two reasonably talented guitar players if you really think you've got to go on and can't hang up your straw hat and call it quits.

He has this distinctive fingerpicking style. It's Chet Atkins-influenced, obviously (and he says so himself), but it isn't Chet Atkins. He right hand thumbs out the rhythm lick while the rest of his fingers are like some kind of tap-dancing spider, except that's a horrid description because it doesn't really do justice to how elegant and feathery his play hand really is; his left is surprisingly still as it floats up and down the frets. There's a solid, square rhythm line under those percussive, ringing arpeggios and then Buckingham suddenly bends at the waist, face contorting as he falls into a moment and both hands explode, the right frenetically lashing the strings while the other hand flows up the frets; he stands straight, stands back, back arched and there it is again--the sound of two guitars coming from the eloquent fingers.

This is the thing you need to know if Lindsey Buckingham is coming to a stage in your area, whether he's coming as the small machine (what he calls his solo stuff these days) or the big machine (the Mac): that Lindsey Buckingham is one of the best guitarists you will ever see in your life. Regardless of whether you like any of his material with or without the band; this is a separate issue, and I couldn't give a damn whether you care for Fleetwood Mac or loathe them, or think you loathe them because there was a Christine McVie song that was sweet the first two times you heard it and the sense of drowning in maple syrup the subsequent hundred-and-fifteen. You will see very few guitar players better than Lindsey Buckingham. He is almost certainly one of the ten best players you will ever see in your life, should you be so lucky. Let me add that I only qualify this as much as I do because there's some slim chance you work at a retirement home for elderly blues musicians or live in some mythical Appalachian valley where every adult male is a blind bluegrass picker with a soul overbrimming with Man's ancient despair boiling up from a bottomless depth. It's just possible you were a roadie for The Yardbirds or something ridiculous like that, and so Lindsey Buckingham manages to tag in as the eleventh-best guitar player you could ever see. Fair enough. But he's good. He's goddamn good.

And when you go, if you go, watch those hands of his. Dammit, watch those hands.

He's doing this solo tour right now, just him with no backing band, on stage accompanied only by a guitar tech who lurks in the background, tuning up the next instrument Buckingham will need in the setlist and efficiently swapping with him between songs. In Charlotte, Buckingham goes from song to song with very little chatter; one or two anecdotes and observations, but mostly just singing and playing. Given the whole bizarre, storied history of Buckingham's other gig, it's probably for the best; no doubt he could do one of the weirdest and bestest extended-length episodes of Storytellers ever, but gods know there have been enough hurt feelings in that catalogue to last a lifetime (just a couple of months ago, a certain drummer was bitching to Playboy about a certain husky-voiced ethereal having the gall to promote her own recent solo work instead of flogging the Mac again--sigh). Buckingham's best statements, anyway, are the ones coming out of those guitars, and he doesn't need to say much more than that.

It was a good setlist. I was surprised that it covered the whole of his career as much as it did--I think I really expected him to mostly draw from Seeds We Sow, the most recent solo record--but this isn't a complaint; I haven't heard a lot of the latest one, and it was a treat to hear some favorites from the Mac/non-Mac songbook, including "Never Going Back Again", "Go Your Own Way", "Trouble", "Go Insane" and "Big Love". I think he played around eighty minutes, which was a solid set and he seemed to be having a good time busting his ass for us.

It was a pleasure and an honor to see the guy. If he's in your area: seriously, Buckingham ought to be a bucket list1 artist for you unless you just hate the guitar or something. I don't know what's wrong with you. Buy the damn tickets.

1Sorry. I really loathe that cliché. But I really can't beat it.


Megan Wednesday, August 1, 2012 at 4:35:00 PM EDT  

They replaced him with two guitarists -- and their band STILL SUCKED until they convinced him to come back.

vince Wednesday, August 1, 2012 at 10:51:00 PM EDT  

I've been a fan of Fleetwood Mac since the Peter Green days (oh my, I just dated myself), and watched them evolve over the years. While Green was an awesome guitarist, and there's some good material after Green left and before Nicks/Buckingham came along, the thing with Buckingham is his style is so distinctive that I don't think any two guitarists, much less any single guitarist, can duplicate the way he plays. And the way he plays is so integral to the Nicks/Buckingham Fleetwood Mac sound that they simply aren't Fleetwood Mac without him.

I've seen him in concert on the tubes, but really would love to see him live.

M. Pearson Friday, August 10, 2012 at 11:34:00 PM EDT  

I had front row/center seats for him in Franklin, TN on July 27th. He is simply amazing. I was in the presence of greatness.

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