Review: Ex-Fleetwood Mac star Lindsey Buckingham put on a stunning show at the Garde

Fleetwood who?

To many of the fans in the nearly full Garde Arts Center Thursday night, a performance by Lindsey Buckingham and his stellar four-piece band was perhaps revelatory. It was to me, anyway.

Freed from the trappings of Fleetwood Mac, the gazillion-selling pop band he'd starred in for over four decades before being suddenly jettisoned earlier this year, the singer/guitarist/songwriter demonstrated how much more fun and rewarding a Buckingham musical event can be when his presence isn't cluttered by having to share space and time with Nicks, Fleetwood and that McVie guy.

All Buckingham, all the time!

That's how it was for two exceptional hours. After a charming opening set by Kenyan singer-songwriter J.S. Ondara — remember that name in February, when his debut album is released — Buckingham filed onstage to rapturous and anticipatory applause, much of it in Standing O fashion.

Dressed in jeans, a black T-shirt and jacket, the musician, now 69, looks like he could ride his mountain bike into the middle of a Tour de France peloton and sweep to a stage victory with ease.

And, metaphorically, maybe that's what he did.

Buckingham is officially on tour behind his recently released, three-disc compilation titled "Solo Anthology: The Best of Lindsey Buckingham." He'd planned all along on doing some dates in support of the collection, but the original idea was to intersperse the shows amongst the fuller schedule of the world-wide Fleetwood Mac 50th anniversary tour.

Then he got fired.

Buckingham obliquely referenced the situation twice on Thursday.

First, after a strong opening of "Don't Look Down" and "Go Insane," when it was obvious Buckingham was in full possession of his voice and his extraordinary and hyper-speed fingerpicking skills that dazzled over and over, he stepped to the mic and addressed the crowd.

"We're here tonight for a couple of reasons," he said with a wry grin, raising his eyebrows and turning his outstretched palms skyward in a "what are ya gonna do?" gesture. Then, to joyous applause, he said, "Looking ahead and not backwards has served me well this year."

He explained that his situation was cathartic and has afforded him and his band to deeply explore his solo catalog — much of which had never been played onstage before this tour. Too, he said, this tour and the crowd reactions have taught him that — here, he seemed if not surprised then certainly humbly appreciative — "much of the work sounds current and fresh and it's all coalesced over time."

Later, after "Shut Us Down," Buckingham reiterated that 2018 has been surprising. "We're making a new start," he said. "It means the world to have all of you here at the beginning. I love you all very much."

Then it was back to the music: 23 astounding songs and performances over the course of the night. Buckingham writes timeless pop music that indicates he's not particularly interested in adhering to conventional song structures or production techniques. The material has the sophistication of Brian Wilson or Cole Porter, and the arrangements are sculpted to reflect a sort of Phil Spector gleam — all of which Buckingham presented with passion and acuity and able help from two keyboardists, a bassist and a drummer (whose names I somehow missed).

Perhaps understandably, Buckingham backloaded the set with Mac material including "Tusk," "I'm So Afraid," "Big Love" and the set-ending "Go Your Own Way," and they resonated in the huge fashion one would expect from tunes that are iconic across generations.

It was the solo material, though, that made me wonder if Buckingham had been stockpiling his best work all along in the perhaps unaware prescience that he'd one day be on his own. "Surrender the Rain," "Street of Dreams," "Not Too Late," "Trouble," "Slow Dancing," "Soul Drifter" ...

Somewhere, the latest configuration of Fleetwood Mac is readying for a show in an 18,000-seat arena. Buckingham's next gig, in New Jersey, is in a venue that holds 1,500 people. Guess which fans are luckier?

 

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