Photo: Michael Tullberg/Getty Images
Lindsey Buckingham At The Fred Kavli Theatre
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By Crystal Larsen
Thousand Oaks, Calif.
In a recent exclusive interview with GRAMMY.com, GRAMMY-winning producer/engineer Ken Caillat discussed the "musical brilliance" of guitarist and singer/songwriter Lindsey Buckingham. "Lindsey was the accent king," said Caillat, referring to Buckingham's ability to create meaningful rhythms out of guitars, drums and even chairs. And in his recent book, Making Rumours, Caillat notes it was Buckingham's "brilliant guitar playing" that led Mick Fleetwood to invite him to join Fleetwood Mac.
The widely heralded musical brilliance of Buckingham was put on incredible display during an intimate performance Sunday evening at the Fred Kavli Theatre in Thousand Oaks, Calif. Armed with an impressive arsenal of custom guitars that he would switch out between each song, Buckingham took the stage at 8 p.m. a black blazer to perform the subdued "Cast Away Dreams" from his 2006 album, Under The Skin. Following the performance and a welcoming applause from the audience, Buckingham gave us his own welcome of sorts, beginning with a mention of how "lovely" he found the venue to be, and ending with a point that would in turn influence the entire spirit of the night — the power and importance of change.
Dividing his musical career into two parts, Buckingham described how his experience with Fleetwood Mac (the "big machine") and his subsequent solo career (the "small machine") have combined to create something greater than either one, and that what he's learned as a result of both paths has defined who he is today. "But the small machine keeps getting smaller," he joked, referring to the one-man show he's currently taking on tour.
Though the evening featured just one man, Buckingham's seemingly endless rhythms were enough to fill the 1,800-capacity theater, mesmerizing audience members from the front row all the way to the balcony. When Caillat speaks of Buckingham's accents, he must also be referring to his facial expressions, which are truly a show on their own. From trying to understand how he's making his guitar sound as beautiful and delicate as a harp (and at times with only one hand), and watching the emotion drip from his face with each song in both expression and beads of sweat, to listening to him belt out lyrics to his songs with such fervor and sometimes in a spastic manner, Buckingham's performance had me mesmerized while simultaneously making me feel as if I'd lose control at any moment. It was like a Buckingham fever. He had the audience in a tight grip for the full 90-minute show.
The evening drifted from songs from the big machine to tracks from the (still perfectly well-oiled) small machine, with each performance garnering Buckingham a rousing applause from the audience, and a couple of his own excited shouts of "yeah!" The rush that came with his guitar solos, which were plentiful and almost unreal to watch, was clearly mutual between Buckingham and his adoring observers.
Being a fan who has never seen Fleetwood Mac live, I was ecstatic to find songs such as "Come," "Never Going Back Again" and "Go Your Own Way" on the docket. The way Buckingham annunciated each lyric on "Come" was haunting and completely hypnotizing. There was magic in that performance, but this magic was much more abrasive, the kind that catches you and attempts to knock you unconscious, making you forget where you are. It was at this point that Buckingham's emotional quotient was pushed near the limit, and everyone in the front row felt it as we all sat at the edge of our seats, thinking if we got just a little closer the pound of his guitar would hit us harder.
Buckingham took a slower, softer spin on "Never Going Back Again," wanting to give the crowd a different experience with a song they've likely heard many times. Shifting between soft whispers and loud vocal yells, and paired with his delicate acoustic guitar picking, Buckingham proved this is a song that will never grow old. A driving stripped-down performance of Fleetwood Mac's "Big Love" was next, a song Buckingham said served as a template for many things to follow. "Discard what is not essential," he encouraged, emphasizing the power and importance of change again. Fleetwood Mac's "I'm So Afraid" and "Go Your Own Way" followed, capping a set of performances that showcased Buckingham's vulnerability, with each song representing a previous period of himself.
The evening came to an end with an encore featuring what I found to be the perfect goodbye song, "Trouble," from 1981's Law And Order, followed by the title track to his most recent release, 2011's Seeds We Sow.
Leaving the crowd with one last piece of inspiring advice, Buckingham said he hopes "we will all do our best to infuse good into a world that seems to have lost perspective of that." And the crowd seemed to take this oath in unison as we all stood in a respectful yet widely crazed applause as the musical brilliance of Buckingham left the stage.
"Cast Away Dreams"
"Bleed To Love Her" (Fleetwood Mac)
"Not Too Late"
"Stephanie" (Buckingham Nicks)
"Come" (Fleetwood Mac)
"Shut Us Down"
"Never Going Back Again" (Fleetwood Mac)
"Big Love" (Fleetwood Mac)
"I'm So Afraid" (Fleetwood Mac)
"Go Your Own Way" (Fleetwood Mac)
"Seeds We Sow"
To catch Lindsey Buckingham in a city near you, click here for tour dates.