Thursday, November 03, 2011

Reviews: Lindsey Buckingham Live in Napa, CA and Albany, NY

Supercharged concert shows both sides of Buckingham
Uptown Theatre - Napa, CA

Napavalley Register

Lindsey Buckingham admits that his career has a split personality. And that’s a good thing, as exhibited last week during Buckingham’s stellar performance at the Uptown Theatre. Probably best known as the guitarist and front man of Fleetwood Mac, Buckingham’s 40-year music career has also included prolific solo work that has allowed him to follow his own artistic path. 

At the Uptown, Buckingham comfortably wore both hats, giving concertgoers a supercharged sampling of both sides of his diverse musical talent. 

Without introduction or an opening act, Buckingham walked onto the Uptown stage alone and began with a gentle, almost whispering rendition of “Shut Us Down,” quickly neutralizing the enthusiastic crowd’s chants for more raucous and familiar Fleetwood Mac hits. Next, a slow take on his solo hit “Go Insane” transitioned like a mood swing from mournful yearning to screaming desperation at the end.  After another solo hit,“Trouble,” he launched into the evening’s first taste of the Mac, a delightful “Never Going Back Again” from the album “Rumours.” 

“I consider myself to be extremely fortunate in the sense that I have been able to work and live, really, in two distinctly different creative worlds,” Buckingham told the crowd. “On one hand, you have what you might call the large machine, which is, of course, Fleetwood Mac. On the other hand you have what you might call the small machine, and that of course is the solo work. If you were to make an analogy, say, to film, you could probably say that I’ve been involved in a few big films. But it is the small projects, the independent films, that scale of project that allows you to follow your heart, that allows you to take risks and allows you, probably most importantly, to continue every time to aspire to be an artist.”

Buckingham’s latest “small machine” project is his new solo album “Seeds We Sow,” which was highlighted during the middle of the 2 1/2 hour non-stop set. The album is solo in the purest sense, since Buckingham wrote, produced, sang, played most of the instruments and even distributed it on his own label. This is a far cry from his Fleetwood Mac work, which he says “involves all of the other entities that step up to the plate to meet that situation when, as they say, commerce is robust.”

The songs from “Seeds We Sow” are an excellent example of Buckingham’s versatility and growth as one of America’s most popular musical stylists. Album standouts at the Uptown concert included “In Our Own Time,” showcasing Buckingham’s signature staccato guitar work, “End of Time,” a peaceful and catchy contemplation of death and “Stars are Crazy.”

While many performers introducing new material stubbornly resist dragging out the old favorites for lifelong fans, Buckingham didn’t let too many songs pass during his set before serving up one of his Fleetwood Mac hits. It was all to the Uptown crowd’s delight and reaffirmed the huge influence Buckingham has on the mega-band’s continued popularity.

Perhaps the standout Fleetwood Mac song of the night was “Tusk” which, in its day, was a weird and progressive departure from the Mac’s more pop-music feel of the “Rumours” album. Written by Buckingham, the song highlighted his experimental bent while further exposing creative tensions both within the band and conflicts with the commercial demands of the industry.
The ease and apparent joy Buckingham exhibited moving between both his “large machine” and “small machine” body of work showed that this is an artist who has successfully come to terms with both. And just as he began the concert — alone, singing a quiet acoustic song before a hushed audience — he delivered his last encore, almost whispering the lyrics to his new album’s title track “Seeds We Sow.” At age 62 with four decades of music making behind him, many of those “seeds” have grown into a musical legacy fully embraced by both Buckingham and his world of adoring fans. 

Lindsey Buckingham at The Egg, 11/2/11
The Egg, Albany, NY

Special to the Times Union

ALBANY – In the middle of his brilliant concert at The Egg on Wednesday evening, Lindsey Buckingham broke down his approach to his musical career in Hollywood terms, explaining that sometimes he’s in a box-office blockbuster movie (Fleetwood Mac, or as he says, “the Big Machine”) and sometimes he’s in a gritty, indie art-house film (his solo work).

On Wednesday, he brought the “small machine” to town, standing front and center surrounded by a trio of talented, versatile musicians who never once pulled the focus from their bandleader. Which is as it should be.

What was quite amazing, however, was just how well the Big Machine songs were integrated into Buckingham’s smart but eccentric solo work without over-powering the much less well known selections. In fact, the 110-minute concert was a study in balance – one-third selections from Buckingham’s new album ”Seeds We Sow,” one-third culled from his previous solo work and one-third Fleetwood Mac nuggets.
Buckingham opened the show by himself, offering up a half dozen string snapping gems that showcased his considerable and often under-rated guitar talents. After launching the performance with the shimmering “Shut Us Down,” he explored the full range of his fretboard skills, swerving from crackling finger-picking to a furious mad-man strum during “Go Insane.” By the time he hit the back-to-back Mac tunes – the dynamic “Never Going Back Again” and the finger-picking flurry of “Big Love” – that closed out his half-hour solo set, the crowd was clearly in his pocket.

Without any fanfare or even acknowledgment, the band slid in behind Buckingham with a magnificent rendition of “Under the Skin,” three acoustic guitars chiming away atop the subtle clip-clop percussion of drummer Walfredo Reyes, Jr. With the ballad-ish “All My Sorrows,” guitarist Neale Heywood and utility man Brett Tuggle chimed in with lushly woven vocal harmonies, while the new “In Our Own Time” proved that the band could rock hard, too. Tuggle, who switched off between guitar, bass and keyboards throughout the night, was the musical linchpin, adding just the right coloration and shading to the band’s spot-on arrangements.

And the arrangements were key, considering that the quartet pulled off a sparkling rendition of the paranoia-drenched Mac hit, “Tusk,” which famously included everything including a full marching band on the original recording. “Second Hand News” and “Stars Are Crazy” (the stand-out of the new material) were both taken at gallop tempo, but it was the dark “I’m So Afraid” which drew the standing ovation, as Buckingham launched into full-fledged guitar hero mode.

Chances are when next we get to see Buckingham, he’ll be surrounded by his Fleetwood Mac bandmates at SPAC or the Times Union Center, but it was genuinely thrilling to see what he can do in an intimate setting with a “small machine.”
Lindsey Buckingham
When: 7:30 p.m. Wednesday
Where: The Egg, Empire State Plaza, Albany
Musical highlights: “Tusk,” “Stars Are Crazy,” “I’m So Afraid”
Length: 110 minutes – no intermission; no opening act
The crowd: A disappointingly small but very appreciative crowd of about 500.

LIVE: Lindsey Buckingham @ The Egg, 11/2/11
Review by Bokonon
Photographs by Andrzej Pilarczyk

On his first meeting with Howlin’ Wolf, young Hubert Sumlin was sent home, not quite in shame, but close enough. Drop the pick, Wolf told him, and you’ll find your voice. Since that day, Sumlin, who will turn 80 in two weeks, has been tearing a sound out of the strings that only one man can replicate, and that man is Hubert himself. It’s the sound of his soul.

One doesn’t usually muse on the minutiae of Hubert Sumlin while listening to Lindsey Buckingham, but perhaps one should.

Buckingham is, of course, guitarist for Fleetwood Mac. Long before he joined that group, they were a pack of hairy London lads mimicking the Chicago blues of Muddy Waters, Otis Rush and, um, Howlin’ Wolf. You may say it’s a leap from the thumping, slippery groove of “Smokestack Lightning” to “Never Going Back Again,” but Buckingham might not.

And Buckingham, of course, lost the pick.

Wednesday at The Egg, Buckingham also lost his mind, and not just when he was singing “Go Insane.”

Continue to the full review (with photos)

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

One of the best, most exciting shows I've seen all year!! Crisp, clear acoustic sounds and rock leads. Unbelievable vocals from a guy in his 60s. A standing O from the crowd on at least half of the songs.

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