Lindsey Buckingham Takes His Chances

Fleetwood Mac guitarist delivers hits, new tunes in NYC

lindsey buckingham
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Lindsey Buckingham performs in Sydney, Australia.
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Lindsey Buckingham has been sticking to a handful of talking points in all of the press for his new solo album, Seeds We Sow, and he repeated them in his stage banter at the Town Hall in Manhattan last night. Basically: he's been splitting his creative life between what he calls "The Big Machine" (Fleetwood Mac) and "The Small Machine" (his often iconoclastic solo career), and the difference is akin to making blockbuster movies and arty independent films. This is a good analogy, but it seems more applicable to his studio output than this live performance, which erred on the side of an earnest blandness, at odds with the genuinely quirky sounds of much of his early solo work (not to mention his music with Fleetwood Mac).

Buckingham opened this show with a handful of solo acoustic tunes that showcased his impressive finger-picked guitar technique before being joined by a trio of sidemen, who performed with great precision without necessarily augmenting his style. Though some selections from Seeds We Sow, such as the anthemic "In Our Own Time" and a driving "Illumination," made a good case for Buckingham's continuing creative vitality, it was difficult to buy his assertion that toothless numbers like "Stars Are Crazy" and "End of Time" are an artistic leap forward when they immediately followed the truly odd (and still magnificent) "Tusk" on the setlist.

Photos: Couples That Rock
The largely middle-aged audience sat politely though Buckingham's newer material but lost it completely when he played more familiar songs, such as early solo hits "Trouble" and "Go Insane," and, well, anything at all by Fleetwood Mac. Buckingham played the old hits with an admirable level of excitement and commitment, and he delivered a particularly excellent solo at the end of the Mac staple "I'm So Afraid."

Photos: Fleetwood Mac Live in 2009
Strangely, he ended the night with a peculiar anti-climax: After finishing off the main set with that display of guitar virtuosity and an effortlessly crowd-pleasing rendition of "Go Your Own Way," he returned for a three-song encore comprised entirely of obscure solo deep cuts. At this point in Buckingham's career one ought to expect him to be a bit contrary, but since this set played it very safe in terms of song selection – hey, how about a few more songs from Tusk? – the ho-hum conclusion wasn't the right place to take a risk.

Setlist:

"Shut Us Down"
"Go Insane"
"Trouble"
"Never Going Back Again"
"Big Love"
"Under the Skin"
"All My Sorrows"
"In Our Own Time"
"Illumination"
"Second Hand News"
"Tusk"
"Stars Are Crazy"
"End of Time"
"That's the Way Love Goes"
"I'm So Afraid"
"Go Your Own Way"

"Turn It On"
"Treason"
"Seeds We Sow"

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