When Fleetwood Mac fired its longtime co-lead vocalist, composer, and guitarist Lindsey Buckingham in April, it was the messiest move for the famously contentious band that has spent the better part of five decades making odd decisions.
Mick Fleetwood told Rolling Stone earlier this spring that removing Buckingham was but an “impasse” while announcing the guitarist’s replacements for a tour that will end in Philadelphia on April 5, 2019.
Luckily, Buckingham has a decade-spanning solo career’s worth of nervy, self-penned hits to fall back onto, plus Mac mega-smashes such as “Go Your Own Way,” to call his own. Saturday’s sold-out show at the Scottish Rite Auditorium in Collingswood proved that he had the juice to carry on alone, the weird energy and dynamic band members to execute his twitchy signatures, and a worshipful audience to hear him out.
“Fleetwood Mac is nothing without Lindsey Buckingham,” yelled one adoring fan, not long after the guitarist thanked the Collingswood crowd for being there at the start of a new adventure. Soon after, Buckingham launched into one of his biting Fleetwood faves, “Never Going Back Again,” and added teeth-gritting punch to the lyrics, “Been down one time/Been down two times/I’m never going back again.”
Save for the harmonic endowment of Fleetwood Mac’s female voices (Stevie Nicks, Christine McVie) and Buckingham’s contributions to that band’s other hits (e.g. the backing vocal whine of Nicks’ “Rhiannon”), you didn’t miss Buckingham’s previous ensemble in Collingswood. His mix of cool, new wave-ish rock and lustrous harmonic pop was cutting and frenetic when it had to be (e.g. the jittery, repetitive “Doing What I Can”) and breezily free-flowing on the lush likes of “Surrender the Rain.”
That blend – the blunt and the layered, the hushed tones and hard emotions, the serene and the crabby, the craggy and the smooth – has carried Buckingham throughout his entire career. You could hear all of those colors in his manically angelic and nasal voice, whether during the summery “Holiday Road,” or the dark-clouded “Don’t Look Down.”
Touring behind the comprehensive Rhino label compilation Solo Anthology – The Best of Lindsey Buckingham, the guitarist and singer proved over and over on Saturday just how cleverly complex his icily remote pop was without the hindrance of old personality conflicts. With a crack, cheerful band beside him, the snidely lyrical likes of “Go Insane,” were vibrant and punky, with Buckingham’s quickly plucked guitar lines pushed up in the live mix. Impressively, Buckingham was something of a Segovia – fleet and nimble fingered - whether playing electric or acoustic guitar, on songs such as the twinkly “Soul Drifter.”
As pleased as the Scottish Rite crowd was to hear Buckingham’s rarely played solo hits and hang on his every word, the assembled mass went wild for close-to-the-album renditions of his Fleetwood Mac hits, such as the driving, percussive “Tusk” and the bittersweet “Big Love.” Without aping Fleetwood Mac’s female harmonies, Buckingham’s all-male ensemble kept the vocal harmonies flowing – and unique – while providing the singer-guitarist with ample room in which to fly free.