Lindsey Buckingham is considered rock royalty thanks to the years he spent with Fleetwood Mac, and his role in transforming a one-time great British blues band that had lost its leader and sense of direction into a multi-platinum-selling soft-rock phenomenon. But he clearly wants to be known for even more: as a singer-songwriting soloist who is also a distinctive guitarist. Tonight, those who are desperate for him to get on to his Fleetwood Mac hits are reminded that he has recorded seven albums of his own songs.
Now in his early 70s, he comes on in very tight blue jeans, black vest and jacket, backed by a three-piece band of keyboards, drums, and a second guitarist, Neale Heywood, who has worked with Fleetwood Mac. Buckingham makes no introductions as he heads into a selection of his non-Fleetwood songs, demonstrating his guitar skills from the start. He likes the finger-picking style that is associated more with folk than rock, and the opening Not Too Late shows his slick, rapid-fire technique. He has a powerful vocal range and a catalogue of fine, tuneful songs, such as Soul Drifter, which would benefit from more emotion and variety than his consistently full-tilt approach allows.
Next comes a solo section, with further demonstrations of his guitar skills on Shut Us Down and Trouble, in which impressive, intimate passages are followed by sections in which he sounds as if he is singing to a stadium. It includes an intriguing solo treatment of Never Going Back Again, one of his classic break-up songs that helped make Fleetwood Mac’s 1977 album Rumours one of the bestselling albums of all time – even now, 45 years on. He gives it a slower, thoughtful and less jaunty feel that works well, and follows up with an upbeat Big Love, from Tango in the Night, the album he recorded with Fleetwood Mac in 1987 before leaving to go solo.
He rejoined the band in 1997, got fired in 2018, and went on to produce some of his best solo work, as he proves tonight when his current band come back to join him on songs from his eponymous album released last year. He is helped by tight, rousing harmony vocals from Heywood and keyboard player Michael Kiyoka on the exuberant Scream and I Don’t Mind.
They end, of course, with a set of Fleetwood Mac favourites written by Buckingham, from Second Hand News to Tusk (with added sound effects) and his most famous break-up song, Go Your Own Way. It still sounds like a classic weepie, even without those glorious female harmonies that made the original so exhilarating.
Buckingham returns for what he calls “mellow” encores. His voice is sounding exhausted on Love Is Here to Stay, a song he wrote with Christine McVie, but he ends strongly with Time, a poignant folk-country ballad first recorded by the Pozo-Seco Singers (including a young Don Williams) back in 1966. It has been an uneven set but he deserves the standing ovation.