Lindsey Buckingham, on a brilliant new live acoustic album, redefines what’s at stake in his own songs — helping us not just to hear them in a new way, but to feel them in the same new way.
That’s perhaps best heard on this album’s version of “Trouble,” once a No. 9 hit in 1981 and now reborn in this first-ever acoustic live album — done in one take, with no overdubs, from a concert in Des Moines, Iowa on September 1, 2012. Buckingham pulls every piece of the song apart, then reassembles it as something utterly different.
Where he once sounded like he was in on the joke, like he could get past whatever that trouble was, now Buckingham sounds less sure. And that space between cocksure young man and graying middle-age uncertainty gives the song a fresh and thunderous power.
Elsewhere, Buckingham’s pained cries, devastating and nakedly sensual, on “Bleed To Love Her” are bolstered by an insistent guitar figure that pulses like a thrumming heartbeat. “Never Going Back Again,” always an edgy, insulting retort as conveyed within the Fleetwood Mac show, here sounds like a desperately sad admission of guilt over another backslide. “So Afraid” is transformed from a molten expression of fury into something far more complex, with more doubt and less rage.
Buckingham gives similarly raw, starkly heartfelt renditions of “Not Too Late,” the opening cut from his 2006′s solo album Under the Skin, “Come” from Fleetwood Mac’s 2003 effort Say You Will, and — in a special treat — “Stephanie,” a searching, deeply emotional leftover track from 1973′s pre-Fleetwood Mac Buckingham Nicks project.
But those lesser-known cuts, perhaps understandably, hold less emotional resonance than do his radical reworkings of songs we’ve come to know and love — and this is where One Man Show, time and time again, not only delights but intrigues.
Buckingham turns “Go Insane,” once a new wave-inspired No. 23 hit from 1984, into an angular, slow-motion meltdown — the sound of someone hanging by a trembling thread. “Big Love,” in a lean, fleet performance that’s not all that different from his solo turn during Fleetwood Mac’s more recent tours, is given a similarly comprehensive makeover.
He closes this album — issued on Tuesday exclusively via iTunes — with a new version of the title track from 2011′s Seeds We Sow, Buckingham’s best solo effort in years. As hard-eyed and tough as that project could no doubt be, as brave in its unwillingness to concede any damn thing to the sands of time and regret and memory, this new version of “Seeds” provides — once more — its own glimpse into the heart of the matter.
As Buckingham sings about a glowing dream, of being reached for in the middle of the night by a lost love, you sense how hard it is sometimes to keep moving forward. Even when he knows he must.
That Buckingham keeps making that leap, time and time again, whatever the risks, is what makes his work so compulsively enjoyable.