Lindsey Buckingham, and it kills me to have to type this next part, former guitarist, singer/songwriter, and musical architect for the legendary rock band, Fleetwood Mac, came to the historic Riviera Theatre in North Tonawanda last night on a solo trek backing his newly released solo compilation, Solo Anthology: The Best of Lindsey Buckingham. It was his first trip to the Buffalo area as a solo artist; the first time I’ve gone to see him and gotten to sleep in my own bed afterward.
I should add a disclaimer here that it would be difficult for me to say that anything Lindsey Buckingham sings and plays is anything less than perfect. I simply adore him. That said, damn near everything Lindsey Buckingham sings and plays is perfect. It just is. Period. He is a musical force.
It isn't just what he plays either. It's how he plays. The finger-picking style of playing guitar is most often seen used by folk or country artists. Somehow Buckingham uses this style, adapted by him to include all five fingers of his right hand, to unleash rock and roll fire from his favored Turner model electric guitar, as well as the army of other guitars he uses throughout his set. He is both rhythm and lead guitarist, simultaneously. I’ve been watching him play now for 21 years and his playing never ceases to amaze me. It never will. I will never not appreciate how hard his guitar tech, Stanley LaMendola, a phenomenal guitarist in his own right, works just off stage to keep those guitars in tune and supplied to Buckingham on cue.
Buckingham didn’t mention Fleetwood Mac by name. The closest he got was when he explained how he’s someone who has always preferred to look forward instead of behind and how that’s what they were doing with this tour. His sincere appreciation for our support for him and the new record was palpable.
In the wake of his dismissal from the band that he helped steer into rock and roll infamy, much has been said in the media and the Fleetwood Mac fandom about Buckingham’s perfectionist nature as an artist and the sometimes abrasive temperament that rears its head because of it. Of course, it's a very different thing to be his fan than it is to be his band mate, but I had the great pleasure to meet him last night (and last month in Pittsburgh) and Lindsey Buckingham, the man, comes across as a soft-spoken, gentle sweetheart.
I interrupt this professional review by Writer Kristen for a few words from Fangirl Kristen:
I went into the meet & greet this time without thinking about what I was going to say to Lindsey. I beat my anxiety back for weeks and made a conscious effort to not examine to death what I would say to him and how I would say it. I was just going to be myself.
And it worked!
I explained to him that I was so excited to meet him in Pittsburgh that I acted like a moron and forgot to introduce myself, and he chuckled and told me he didn't think that makes me a moron. I finally told him that my name is Kristen. As we shook hands, he noticed his pick that I was wearing on a leather cord around my neck, which he gave me on my birthday down in Nashville in 2012. His eyes lit up and he tapped it, telling me he "liked that very much!"
We took our picture and then, noticing how out of place his healthy southern Californian glow was in a room full of pasty Buffalonians, I asked him if he was enjoying our weather. (It was a blizzard outside.) He rolled his eyes and grumbled and said sarcastically, "Yeah, it's really cool." I laughed and elbowed him gently and said, "Ha ha, cool, right?" and he did that dorky laugh thing that he does that was so endearing it would have made me cry if I wasn't this new and improved Kristen. I indeed held it together though and wished him a good show and that was that.
See, this is what happens when I don't agonize over what I'm going to say and just be myself. Good things!
Back to Writer Kristen...
Aside from a slightly overzealous fan in the crowd who shouted “F*ck the Mac when we got you, kid!” near the end of the night, transforming this Buffalo suburb briefly into Boston, apparently, Fleetwood Mac wasn’t mentioned at all.
It was on all our minds though. At least, it was on mine.
Fleetwood Mac is my forever favorite band. I will always love them. Their music is deeply ingrained in me. It’s a crucial element of my soul. They are my soul.
I made the decision to see them with their new lineup in Cleveland last month, and I’m glad I did. I still love them. Even after this. It’s impossible for me to not. I tried and I can’t do it. But it’s been a painful eight months coming to terms with the fact that Buckingham is no longer a part of them.
If it’s this way for me, I can only imagine how difficult this has been for Buckingham himself.
His quiet defiance while playing through the Mac song “Never Going Back Again” hit me hard. As was the case last month in Pittsburgh, it felt very final. The song that was once about a lost love is now about a lost band and lost friends. Four friends with whom he experienced and survived things that nobody else in his life ever can or ever will be able to understand.
It must be so isolating. His defiance during "Never Going Back Again" was clear and strong but it was also forced. He has no choice but to look forward. He has no choice but to never go back again. It was palpable on his face, as we cheered him through the final parts of the song, how much he needs us, and I think, I hope, our cheers let him know how very much we still need him.
His final song hit me the hardest. He chose the aptly-named ditty “Treason” off his brilliant 2008 solo album, Gift of Screws. “Deep down there’s freedom. Deep down there will be a reason. At the end of the season, we will rise from this treason.”
Written and released years ago, the song has never been more appropriate to play than now. Buckingham has been a prophetic writer for most of his career, starting way back on the highly-underappreciated in its time but now cult classic 1973 album, Buckingham Nicks. It’s almost as if he’s always known, deep down, that it would all come to this.
Apologies to Mr. Buckingham for standing right in front of him and sobbing as he played through this one last night. But it was like watching one-fifth of my soul floundering while it took special care to reassure me that everything would be okay, in the end.
Highlights of the show for me (if I can't choose the entire show) were the album versions of “Slow Dancing,” “Holiday Road” (off the National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation soundtrack), “Go Insane,” and the crushingly beautiful gems, "Not Too Late" "Down on Rodeo" and “Shut Us Down,” the last of which came from his 2006 solo record, Under The Skin.
This is another song that has new meaning now. “Oh, you and I we sure can dream of conversations that might have been... And even after all these years, I can't even see you clear... Oh, I won't shut us down. No, I will stay around. As long as I can. As long as I can…”
Two weeks ago during his set, after a long and thoughtful pause, Buckingham dedicated this song to Stevie Nicks, his childhood friend, former girlfriend, and now former band mate; the woman rumored to be responsible for his ouster from Fleetwood Mac, after allegedly declaring that she never wanted to share a stage with him again.
That dedication might be all that needs to be said about Lindsey Buckingham, the man.