San Francisco Chronicle Concert Review
Lindsey Buckingham already has been to the platinum mountain, so his exquisite sold-out show at Bimbo's 365 Club on Wednesday night didn't really qualify as "Local Boy Makes Good." How about "Phoenix Rises From Ashes" for the comeback story of the Atherton Kid who helped turn Fleetwood Mac into a cash cow during the late '70s?
Although he recorded two eccentric solo albums prior to leaving Fleetwood Mac in 1987, Buckingham -- a singer, songwriter and superb guitarist -- is only now on his debut solo tour. His third album, "Out of the Cradle," finally was released last year, but this is the first chance he's had to perform any of that material in concert. He's making the most of it.
In the punk era, it was fashionable to dis Fleetwood Mac as a bloated example of everything that was wrong about mainstream rock. In retrospect, if you ignore most of the pop banalities of the Christine McVie and Stevie Nicks songs, you can hear something special in Buckingham's work with the Mac. With "Go Your Own Way" and other Mac tracks, Buckingham was carrying on the pop tradition that goes back to Buddy Holly, the Beach Boys and the Beatles.
UNITY OF STYLE
If you were to make a home tape of all the Buckingham compositions on the Mac albums, you would hear a unity of style that carries over to his solo career. There's that strange tenor voice that can swing from a hush to a scream; an attention to sweet, pure melody; a romantic, off-kilter sensibility in the lyrics; fiery finger-picking in folk and classical guitar modes; and the layered production technique.
It would be hard to imagine a more satisfying program than Buckingham's show at Bimbo's. It was a well-paced combination of songs from "Cradle," his most significant Mac material and a few numbers from the first two Buckingham albums. The show also was an opportunity for Buckingham to finally perform his elaborate studio confections in a live setting.
With Fleetwood Mac's quintet format, it was impossible to approximate the layers upon layers of guitars and voices that Buckingham constructed in the studio. He has solved that problem with a nine-piece backup band that features a lineup of five guitarists, three percussionists, a bass player and keyboardist. Six band members join Buckingham on vocal harmonies.
PICKING AND GRINNING
To start, Buckingham came onstage alone with an acoustic guitar. Soaking in the ovation, he flashed an aw-shucks grin and began a quick-picking version of the last big Mac hit, "Big Love." Buckingham's tenor wail shook the nightclub. He looked thin and sharp with a mop of dark curly hair, five o'clock shadow, black jeans and a black shirt halfway unbuttoned, tail out.
He recited a brief, disturbing verse before performing the fretful "Go Insane" -- the title track from one of his albums, sung with an edge and played like a Spanish guitar etude.
Then the other musicians joined him on stage for "Don't Look Down" from "Out of the Cradle." Notwithstanding the intricate overdubs and electronically treated background vocals that Buckingham created for the album version, the live performance was an accurate, full-bodied rendition -- stunning and, if you will, uplifting.
"The Chain" -- the title song on the recently released Fleetwood Mac anthology -- was next, sounding as fevered and haunting as ever. Other Mac tracks followed -- the monumental "Tusk," with its African drum sound, and the stately blues-rock number "I'm So Afraid," with a white-hot guitar solo from Buckingham. He brought out his acoustic guitar for "Never Going Back Again," attacking the instrument like John Fahey or Leo Kottke and singing with the passion and swoop of the late Tim Buckley.
Most of "Out of the Cradle" was covered. The ballad "All My Sorrows" had Buckingham on a ukulele for an island feel. It shimmered and clicked like a track on the Beach Boys' "Pet Sounds" album. "This Is the Time" was a hard-rock explosion that turned into a lead guitar face-off between Buckingham and three of his guitarists.
A glorious "Go Your Own Way" ended the set in a frenzy. The encore featured the rockabilly of "Holiday Road," a supercharged "Eyes of the World" and Buckingham's graceful final solo piece, the melancholy "Soul Drifter."
But the evening's most special moment came earlier in the set. During a quiet moment alone onstage, Buckingham spoke of his late father and the man's positive influence on his life. Then he acknowledged his mother and other members of his family in the audience by dedicating a pair of songs to them: a delicate instrumental version of Rodgers & Hammerstein's "This Nearly Was Mine" and Buckingham's own poignant "Street of Dreams."
This was the essence of Buckingham's show: He honored his past but he's still following his dreams.