BY DANIEL GLUSKOTER
Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Lindsey Buckingham kicked off the opening night of the third leg of his solo tour with a nearly two hour set at the Palace of Fine Arts in San Francisco Tuesday night.
Twice delayed, first by emergency open heart surgery and later by the Covid pandemic, the 72-year old former Fleetwood Mac guitarist and vocalist born in Palo Alto is touring in support of his seventh solo album, a self-titled effort released late last year. Taking the stage to a polite ovation, he indicated that the evening’s performance was also unexpectedly jeopardized when keyboardist Brett Tuggle became ill at the last minute, but he and his touring band consisting of guitarist Neale Heywood, keyboardist Michael Kiyokaand drummer Michael Urbano decided to soldier on without him to the relief of those in attendance.
Lindsey Buckingham the album is a swift, largely enjoyable 37 minute effort that’s quite upbeat throughout most of its ten songs. Written, produced, and recorded by Buckingham at his home studio in Los Angeles, the artist has stated that his goal was to create a pop album with “songs that resemble art more than pop.” Some have referred to it as the album that broke up Fleetwood Mac, indicating that it created a conflict within the band when Buckingham requested that Mac delay their upcoming tour so that he’d have time to promote his solo release, though that narrative remains in dispute with different members of the iconic band. What isn’t in dispute was that Buckingham made it abundantly clear how much he enjoys leaving the politics behind when he’s touring with those who joined him Tuesday night on the Palace stage.
To many, the show played out as if it were two separate performances. The slower paced first half featured mainly cuts that Buckingham had released in earlier phases of his solo career, while the more upbeat conclusion concentrated on tracks popularized by his tenure with Mac in addition to a handful of lively tracks from his latest effort. Opening with “Not Too Late” from 2006’s Under The Skin, he dug deep into his catalog for his first six songs before the backing band left the stage to him alone to allow him to present a four song acoustic set.
Following “Shut Us Down,’ another track from Under The Skin, Buckingham introduced his 1981 single “Trouble,” one of his best known solo compositions, in hushed tones that could best be described as a whisper before livening up his delivery midway into the song. From that point forward it was as if another artist had taken the stage as an onslaught of Fleetwood Mac and primarily upbeat new solo cuts would pleasantly dominate the remainder of the show. The first two Mac songs of the evening, “Never Going Back Again” and “Big Love,” complete with his trademark jingle-jangly guitar riffs concluded the brief acoustic interlude.
With the band back in tow for the second half of the show, the guitarist proceeded to introduce material from his latest effort for the first time, starting with “Scream,” the album’s opening cut. “I Don’t Mind,” it’s lead single, followed, before the highly infectious “On The Wrong Side,” a track that would’ve fit in nicely on Tango In The Night or any of a handful of other Mac albums, preceded the artsy production of “Swan Song” to finish the 15 minute mini set. It was a welcome sign that unlike some artists who feel the need the cram subpar new tracks down your throat it actually increased the quality of the setlist.
Leaving no doubt that he continues to embrace their tumultuous 45 year relationship, it’s obvious that Buckingham the artist is near impossible to separate from Fleetwood Mac. Closing out his set, he launched into an extended version of “Tusk” after “Second Hand News.” It might not have included the USC marching band that highlighted the original recording in 1979, but it was still one of the highlights of the evening and gave Buckingham’s new drummer Urbano a chance to shine. A former drummer with Smash Mouth, Third Eye Blind and Cracker among others, Urbano was playing his first live gig with the band after just meeting Buckingham for the first time a couple months ago. His performance was solid and unless Mick Fleetwood suddenly walks out on stage anytime soon he seems to have nailed the audition.
Buckingham next launched into an extended guitar solo on “I’m So Afraid” before closing with “Go Your Own Way.” A modest encore featuring “Love Is Here To Stay” from his fine 2017 collaboration with Mac mate Christine McVie followed before he concluded the festivities by covering “Time,” a nostalgic folksy Pozo-Seco Singers tune from the 60’s that also appears on his new album.
For those in the masses that are less acquainted with Buckingham’s solo material, his three CD 2018 Solo Anthology would be a great place to start. In the likely event you enjoy what you hear, the next logical step would be to pick up his latest.
Buckingham’s tour returns to the Bay Area with shows at the Uptown in Napa next Tuesday and the Golden State Theatre in Monterey the following day.