Lindsey Buckingham Hits the Holiday Road in Houston

The former Fleetwood Mac guitar icon celebrates his storied solo work with a career-spanning set in the heart of Texas

Lindsey Buckingham onstage at the Smart Financial Centre in Houston, TX 12/11/21 (Image: Stephanie Hernandez)

Legendary guitarist, songwriter, producer, and Fairlight CMI-ist, Lindsey Buckingham recently wrapped his national tour to promote his new self-titled album. With a 20-song setlist that traces his solo career highlights alongside his classic Fleetwood Mac tunes, the show was perfect for the ultimate Lindsey Bucking-fan or the Fleetwood Mac fanatic. 

Showing up for his soundcheck, Lindsey walks out onto the stage doing his best James Dean; both hands in the pockets of his black leather jacket, and his hair looking perfectly electrocuted. He shields his eyes from the lights and looks around the empty venue, “We’ve played this place before, right?” he asks his band. 

Quickly getting down to business, he starts with a single from his 2011 album Seeds We Sow, “In Our Own Time.” The song goes from soft, to loud, and deep blues. The first soundcheck song of the evening showcases all of his levels, perfectly setting the tone for the evening. 

The intimate soundcheck audience notices Lindsey looking in discomfort at his finger, and someone shouts, “Are your fingers bleeding?” Lindsey’s face goes soft and he responds theatrically, “I’m bleeding from the heart.” Keyboardist Brett Tuggle tells the crowd that Lindsey cut his finger earlier that day. To which Lindsey exclaimed, “The show will go on, that’s show business.”

With drummer Jimmy Paxson counting the group in, they play a song from the new album, “I Don’t Mind.” Having listened to the song through headphones many times (it was one of my most-played songs of 2021), I was so used to hearing the stacked harmonies jump around my ears. Live, however, it’s as if your body is completely enveloped in these harmonies as they bounce around the venue. 

Guitarist Neale Heywood tells Lindsey, “This is the one that’s going to make your finger bleed.” Lindsey looks to the crowd holding his finger and shrugs, “It’s blood, it’s all part of the show!” the crowd cheers – after all, what could be more rock ‘n’ roll than bleeding fingers? “Get that man a Band-Aid!” shouts one of the audience members, to which Lindsey responded, “I have one, it isn’t helping!” he holds up his right index finger wrapped in a skin-colored band-aid as if it’s a golden ring. Band-aids have nothing on Lindsey Buckingham’s guitar playing. 

The final song of the soundcheck is also from his new album, “On the Wrong Side.” Through each song, there’s been slight shifts in sound. The bass sound gets tighter, there are a couple of feedback walls, a guitar gets quieter – the audience gets louder. Buckingham thanks the small soundcheck crowd and jokes, “Don’t forget to come back!”

“Get Bucked” is spelled out across a t-shirt with iron-on lettering – I’ve found the Lindsey Buckingham devotees. They tell me their anecdotes about meeting Lindsey, doting on how good he is to his fans, and how even at 72, he still has it.  

In front of the audience, for the official start of his show, Lindsey Buckingham stands rail-thin in his all-black attire. He opens with a whispered croon: “Reading the paper saw a review / Said I was a visionary, but nobody knew.” The poignant commentary on his solo career comes from “Not Too Late,” a song from Under the Skin (1997). With this song as the preamble of what’s to come, Lindsey announces himself as a poet and master melodic guitarist. Those attending the concert expecting to hear only Fleetwood Mac tunes are in for a whole host of solo Buckingham; from finger-picked masterpieces, to power-chorded anthems. 

Lindsey Buckingham U.S. Tour 2021 poster (Image: Twitter)

Without acknowledging the audience, he begins “In Our Own Time” from Seeds We Sow (2011). Moving between gentle serenades to the half-shouted chorus embellished by a blues-rock riff, the song plays with levels in a way that instantly grabs the audience. Lyrics like “From the fire, we will rise again / In our own time,” sketch out the current state of his own career it seems. Finally acknowledging his Houston audience, he says an elongated “Hello,” before beginning the next tune.

A personal favorite in the set is from Out of the Cradle (1992), “Soul Drifter.” If Billy Joel is forever synonymous with the “Piano Man,” Lindsey Buckingham is surely the “Soul Drifter.” The song captures the artful soft-rock and pop elements that sum up his expansive career perfectly. From the introductory ticking of a music box to the optimistic, forward-looking lyrics, the song carries the audience along with him on his journey to other lands. 

Following with another song from Seeds We Sow, he plays “Stars Are Crazy.” With a heavy delay-soaked chorus, each iteration of the chorus is punctuated by flashing green lights. Throwing it back to his eccentric Go Insane (1984) album, Lindsey plays “I Must Go.” Featuring so many peculiar sound effects, the sample-man, Michael Kianka, was clearly very busy at the back of the stage.

“Doing What I Can” confuses a few audience members – a few even shout “Big Love!” during the intro. While Lindsey did utilize his own guitar work from the classic Tango in the Night (1987) tune, he created a more electrified version of it for his Out of the Cradle album. 

 

 

Changing guitars, Buckingham says “We’re happy to be back here, the last time we were here must’ve been with Christine.” With the simple mention of the Mac’s songbird, the audience erupts into applause. 

For equipment enthusiasts, a Lindsey Buckingham concert is like an exhibition of guitar masterpieces. There are at least five different Rick Turner Renaissance model 5’s, and a couple of iconic Model-1-C-LB’s. Lindsey has his own style of instantly recognizable guitar playing, but his electro-acoustic instruments equally have their own say. 

By this part of the show, the band disappears, and Lindsey is a solitary presence on the stage. Well, he’s not completely alone – he has his guitar. This one-man-band section proves to be the show’s highlight. Modifying songs from studio albums we know and love, Lindsey performs a solo set of greatest hits. Watching him perform “Shut Us Down,” it is impossible to not marvel at the intricate finger shapes he holds as he belts out the chorus, “No, I will stay around / As long as I can.” After having open-heart surgery, it is mind-blowing how perfectly intact his voice is. He still has full control over that fiery upper-register that he’s so known for, even while experiencing a slight cold.  

Stripping down the sound and slightly slowing the tempo of his most famous (solo) hit from the ‘80s, he uses his red Renaissance Model 5 to play “Trouble.” Instead of the highly-produced radio hit with drums and echoes, Lindsey transforms it into a ballad as he croons, “I should run on the double / I think I’m in trouble.” Even though the version Lindsey performs is different than the studio version, the guitar solo still twinkles as if played by magic fingers. 

Slowing down the quick folk-picking of “Never Going Back Again,” the crowd erupts as he plays the iconic tune from Rumours (1977). The version he plays is completely re-imagined from the studio version. It starts with a pulsating guitar groove and a gentle whisper rather than the high-energy guitar links and cutting tone of the vocals. The song builds the entire way through, from quiet whispers to shouting: “Been down one time / been down two times / been down three times / I’m never going back again.”

Swiftly strumming his Rick Turner Renaissance Model 5, Lindsey plays a version of “Big Love” that completely tops the one from Tango in the Night. It’s near impossible to believe that a full orchestra of sounds is coming from one man with only 10 fingers. It’s during a song like this that you can hear where Fleetwood Mac’s hauntingly catchy sound came from. It wasn’t just Stevie Nicks who brought the witchy vibes, Lindsey had his own fair share of minor-chorded melancholies. 

 

 

With the band returning to the stage, Lindsey says, “The reason we’re on tour is because I have a new album out.” The album was a long time coming, but there were a few road blocks that included Fleetwood Mac drama, personal health issues, and the pandemic. The album he’s referring to, of course, is the self-titled Lindsey Buckingham. Playing a string of the first four songs from the album, he runs through “Scream,” “I Don’t Mind,” “On The Wrong Side,” and “Swan Song.”  His performance is true to the studio versions, but he adds little things to the songs that make you feel the music the way he does. For example, he stomps his foot on the stage to accentuate four drum beats in between “Take anything that we can get,” and “Over and over, red, red, rover.” 

From 2021, back to Rumours from 1977, Lindsey scats on “Second Hand News” to bring the Fleetwood Mac fans in the audience back into the room after a series of modern solo material.

A marching band doesn’t wander into the building, but “Tusk” is still “Real savage like.” Using a guitar rather than the brass instruments from the album (recorded by the USC Marching Band in 1979), the song is still captivating. Every time he sings the hook, “Don’t say that you love me,” he follows it with a “Yee-haw!” which goes down especially well with the Texas crowd.  

“I’m So Afraid” starts with a free jam in the rhythm section, culminating in the trippy intro to the song. The track was one of the first major contributions Lindsey made to Fleetwood Mac in 1975. Almost 50 years ago now, it marked the beginning Buckingham-Nicks era of the group. While Lindsey plays the weepy, David Gilmour-esque solo on one of his Turners, he goes into a trance-like state – a completely mesmerizing sight to behold. 

It wouldn’t be a Buckingham gig if it didn’t include the era-defining tune that is still played every time a heart breaks: “Go Your Own Way.” Everyone is on their feet for this song. Lindsey, ever the dramatist, points directly at audience members as he sings the biting lines as if they’ve wronged him. He walks to the front of the stage (something the fans call the “Go Your Own Way Walk”), where he allows a few lucky fans to quickly strum his guitar – one of the ultimate a rock ‘n’ roll rite of passages. 

With the crowd still reeling from “Go Your Own Way,” the band comes out for their two-song encore. The first, “Love Is Here to Stay,” from his 2017 collaboration album with Christine McVie. Introducing the final song of the evening, Lindsey says it was the first song he recorded for his new album. He explains how he initially had an academic interest in the subject matter of this song, but it has taken on a more visceral meaning for him over the past few years. Bringing the evening to an end, he performs a cover of the Pozo-Seco Singers’ 1966 folk tune, “Time.”

Nostalgia is something everyone can relate to, but performers of Lindsey Buckingham’s time and caliber seem to be especially fascinated by idea. Their most famous songs will always be from their ‘70s hey-day, their fans get younger as they themselves age, and their standing ovations are for songs they wrote in their 20s.

It’s easy to see how lines from “Time,” such as, “Some roads lead forward, some roads lead back / Some roads are bathed in light, some wrapped in fearful black,” would stir Lindsey’s mind on ideas of harmonious beginnings, dissonant endings, and sustained legacies. 

 

VIDEO: Lindsey Buckingham performs “On The Wrong Side” on The Late Show With Stephen Colbert

 

 

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Stephanie Hernandez

Stephanie Hernandez is a PhD student of English and Music at the University of Liverpool, where she is researching the echoes of Romanticism in the ‘Classic Rock’ era of the 1960s-1970s. Stephanie is also a music journalist who loves to wax lyrical about her favorite artists in every piece that she writes. You can find her on twitter @hstephanie9.

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