At Neptune Theatre, Seattle, Washington: “The small machine appears to have just gotten a little smaller,” was how singer-songwriter, and Fleetwood Mac guitarist Lindsey Buckingham described it during the Seattle stop of his current solo tour this past Saturday night at the Neptune Theatre.
Buckingham returned to this topic again and again during the show. Comparing what he does with the “big machine” of Fleetwood Mac, to the more left-of-center music he plays as a solo artist — both with smaller groups, and now, as a virtual one man band — Buckingham talked about how the two seeming extremes are a necessary compliment to one another. Performing songs from a setlist which drew equally from his solo work (from “Trouble” to the recent “Seeds We Sow”), his platinum smashes with Fleetwood Mac (“Go Your Own Way,” “I’m So Afraid”), and even the relatively obscure, pre-Fleetwood Mac Buckingham-Nicks album (“Stephanie”), Buckingham made a very convincing case for how these individual pieces form a more complete artistic whole.
But more than that, on this night Lindsey Buckingham demonstrated why that in addition to being a great songwriter with one of the better ears for a great pop hook in the business, he is also such a world-class guitar player. Performing in the same solo, but not always acoustic, format that Neil Young used to such great effect on his recent Twisted Road tour (and backed by his own small army of acoustic and electric guitars lining the wall behind him), Buckingham pretty much tore the house down at the tiny, 900 seat Neptune Theatre on Saturday night.
The only major complaint, was that at a scant ninety minutes, the set could have been just a bit longer.
Even so, he used the time very well. The small venue also gave the audience a rare and intimate opportunity to view Lindsey Buckingham’s guitar technique — and especially his unique style of finger picking — up close and personal from just about any seat in the house. For those in the first few rows, this also made for plenty of glad-handing between audience and performer, which Buckingham himself seemed to genuinely enjoy doing.
But mostly, the intimate setting provided Buckingham with the perfect place to show off his guitar chops, which he did with considerable passion and vigor. On the quieter songs, like the instrumental “Stephanie” (reportedly written for his then lover and musical partner in Buckingham-Nicks, Stevie), “Seeds We Sow,” and a beautifully reworked “Trouble,” Buckingham’s marvelous overhand picking technique — where he plucks the strings like a bass guitar — was on full display with a variety of acoustic guitars. This was equally matched by the power of his voice, which he routinely took from a whisper to a scream pretty much at will.
But the real fireworks came when he strapped on the electric. For Fleetwood Mac’s megahit “Go Your Own Way,” Buckingham was able to effectively duplicate the sound of his self-described “big machine,” by looping the rhythm parts he had just finished playing, once it came time for the big guitar solo. For a song that he has probably played something like a million times, Buckingham attacked this with venom too — the song sounded as fresh and new here, as it did the when the world first discovered it on the Rumours album.
The hands-down stunner of the evening though was a scorching, eight minute take on the Big Mac’s “I’m So Afraid.”
Here, the dark foreboding power chords that open the song were matched by a vocal where Buckingham held nothing back. As his voice slowly rose in intensity to an anguished cry, the song’s tension built to a thunderous crescendo which soon exploded into a blistering guitar solo. Buckingham’s fingers and hands were simply all over the place here — a blur of light and shadow flying up and down the fretboard, even as he slapped away at his axe ferociously.
It was at this point, that the concert crossed a line into greatness. Flying completely solo at this late stage of the game, Lindsey Buckingham is definitely playing like he is “all-in” right now.
Setlist, Seattle, Washington, May 19, 2012:
Bleed To Love Her
Not To Late
Shut Us Down
Never Going Back
I’m So Afraid
Go Your Own Way
Seeds We Sow