by Jacob Wingate-Bishop
One of the classic Rumours line-up. The man behind ‘Go Your Own Way’. One half of the great rock ‘n roll, love-loathe powerhouse. Lindsey Buckingham, who released his latest solo album last year, is back on tour. Sort of. Announced in late 2021, this was to be Lindsey’s first ever solo tour of Europe – ten dates, from Paris and snowy Sweden to the London Palladium.
After finishing the American leg of the tour in April 2022, Buckingham tragically caught Covid-19 – the great plague of our times – and had to postpone his European dates. These were pushed back to October and even then, the legendary musician behind 1979’s Tusk had to cancel the first five dates entirely (often with only a few hours’ notice). Time, it seemed, had caught up to Buckingham. After all, it was only a few years ago that he underwent emergency open heart surgery, following his dismissal from Fleetwood Mac.
But then the Berlin gig was on. And three days later, London. Nearly a year after buying my ticket, after months of uncertainty, illness and potential cancellation, he was in our capital. A man I had idolised and admired for years – since I fell in love with a 2CD copy of The Very Best of Fleetwood Mac in late 2016 – was a mere hour away on the train. Hotel bookings fell through. A nationwide rail strike was on. Panic set in.
And yet, sometimes I find, the stars align. Just a few times in one’s life, it’s as if the universe itself looks down with mercy. I got to the gig – located at the prestigious London Palladium – and found my seat. Row D. The fourth row back from the stage. I nestled in, counting down the minutes until I would see one of my musical heroes in the flesh, less than fifteen feet from where I sat, no doubt entranced.
What should one come to expect from a Lindsey Buckingham concert? An hour and a half of Mac-related classics and deep cuts? Well, as Robin Denselow noted in The Guardian, the 73-year-old veteran of the rock scene went into this year with no less than seven solo records under his belt. If you turn up expecting twenty renditions of ‘Second Hand News’, you might be disappointed. While the virtuoso sunk his teeth into obligatory favourites, the near two-hour setlist was laden with solo greats, prior chart hits and deeper gems.
The lights go down, and the almost skeletal figure of Buckingham steps onto the stage, mimicking a look between the Babadook and a proud sequoia – scarred from years of commercial neglect and in-band rivalry, but still standing. Clearly a little fatigued from whatever illness hung onto him, the Californian was still a formidable figure; his wiry frame, ironically, carrying extreme weight. From the utter silence of the crowd (save the odd ‘We love you Lindsey!’s), it’s clear we all felt in the company of a legend. It’s as if Spartacus has just walked onto the stage. The tango begins.
In his eternal attire of a suit jacket, V-cut tee and skin-tight jeans, he wordlessly picks up his guitar (the first of many) and it’s like a breath catches in our collective throat. From there, the man introduces the set with ‘Not Too Late’, the opener to his 2006 album, Under the Skin.
We see selections from Buckingham’s discography, old and new. ‘In Our Own Time’, a resilient anthem from the sublime Seeds We Sow precedes ‘Soul Drifter’, which owes its place to Out of the Cradle – a common favourite among fans. It’s a real deep dive of the man’s legacy – the delightfully zany ‘I Must Go’ sounds a treat live, and exactly the kind of song you wouldn’t expect to crop up here.
Without a doubt one of the highlights of the evening is ‘Doing What I Can’, another cut from 1992’s …Cradle – Here, Buckingham gets to shed his typically measured demeanour and become, once more, the musician he was in the late ‘70s, the kind of person who would tear into a nine-minute version of Tusk’s ‘Not That Funny’, a tour-de-force onstage.
Perhaps the best word to sum up Buckingham’s back catalogue is ‘versatile’ – each one of his songs can be performed in a hundred different ways. ‘Trouble’, his first solo hit, becomes a beautifully slow, almost pained track, in the style of his acoustic numbers on 2008’s Live at the Bass Performance Hall..
‘Never Going Back Again’, one of the artist’s many tracks echoing his breakup with Stevie Nicks, from the inimitable Rumours, is exactly as it should be, with his iconic interpretation of ‘Big Love’ damn near blowing us away. As Buckingham showcases the finger-plucking style which sets him apart from most guitarists, it’s becoming even clearer that this is a man devoted entirely to the music. He has little regard for chasing radio success. And why should he?
Finally, we get more than a few words from the man himself. Buckingham jokes that his now not-so-new album, a self-titled work, is the reason for this tour, modestly introducing the next few songs of the set as if he’s somehow intruding on our personal space. Thankfully, all three singles from the eponymous work, ‘Scream’, ‘I Don’t Mind’ and ‘On the Wrong Side’ prove some of his best work in years. As Buckingham closes the latter track with a blistering guitar solo, I can tell we’re all thinking the exact same thing: Yes, this is the man that gave heartbreak a good lick.
From here, the crowd is caught in Buckingham’s egoless grasp, clapping and howling through classics like ‘Second Hand News’, ‘Tusk’ (where Lindsey allows himself off the leash, and proves the most physical moment of the night) and dirgey ‘I’m So Afraid’. Seven full minutes of bleak, almost painfully trudging metal, set to some of the man’s most personal lyrics.
The main set closes with Buckingham’s magnum opus. Less than ten seconds into the titanic masterpiece of ‘Go Your Own Way’ and the crowd – till now planted firmly in their seats – spring to their feet. Buckingham nails every line, nearly five decades on from their conception, but his voice is almost drowned out by the baying horde of satisfied punters. It’s clear Buckingham will never escape his past, for better or worse.
The band take a brief break, before Buckingham and his three-force band re-emerge, choosing the title track from his 1984 effort, Go Insane, for their next number. Having seen both a typical, jangle-rock rendition and a hauntingly slow version (the more popular live choice), its mad creator opts for the former and, whilst it gives him less of a chance to show off his prowess on the six-string, it’s some deliciously ‘80s LB material.
Buckingham then introduces his band – three people he has clear love and loyalty for, whether they’ve been with him for months or millennia – and rounds out the evening with two non-conventional choices. Would you expect any less from him by now? This was, after all, the man who insisted on boxes of Kleenex and lamb chops being used during the recording of Tusk.
‘Love Is Here to Stay’, a track from the 2017 collaboration, Lindsey Buckingham Christine McVie, is, as Buckingham himself states, a ‘mellow’ closer, and bittersweet farewell to his first solo gig in the UK. Then, a final track from his most recent album, a cover of the Pozo-Seco Singers’ ‘Time’. As Buckingham takes up the guitar for one final tune, echoing the chorus, ‘Time, oh good, good time, where did you go?’ it’s obvious this isn’t just a singer’s lament that the evening has come to a close.
Time has been a recurring theme throughout Lindsey Buckingham’s solo material, the concept of longing for what once was burrowing into song titles and thoughtful verses. When Buckingham ponders aloud where time has gone, it feels – deeply – that he wishes he were back in 1977. With his band, on top of the world, and playing to sold-out arenas.
But it’s 2022, and his body isn’t what it once was. Two days later, Buckingham would cancel the remaining three shows of his tour, citing ‘ongoing health issues’. Out of ten stops, he only managed two. But that’s not to say it was a failure, and the guitarist should hang his head in shame. He’s just doing what he can, and put on one hell of a show at the Palladium.
All these years later, and Buckingham is still releasing music (even teasing a new album in the pipeline) and playing gigs where he can. It may take all his energy – and he may need to slow down on the tours somewhat – but he can still muster up the strength for 90 minutes of absolute, pop rock perfection. After all this time, he remains a staple in the rock and roll canon.
From the experimental haze of his ‘80s days to the soft, layered vocals of 2021’s Lindsey Buckingham, it’s obvious that this is a man still living for the music. Even when his body is shot, he’ll still be writing new material, penning choruses and trying out melodies on his Turner Model 1. I don’t know what the future holds for Lindsey Buckingham, nor his live career, but I know that, for just one evening, he was an unstoppable hurricane. And I feel privileged to have been in its path.