Some men gain weight as they get older, and many lose their hair. Lindsey Buckingham, however, has beaten the odds. Reed-thin with a shock of gravity-defying gray hair that reminds one of Jack Nance in Eraserhead, he retains a youthful air and still-keening voice. This is fortunate, as his set included both decades-old Fleetwood Mac hits and more recent solo work. The mixture didn't always cohere, leaving an off-kilter feeling, but the highs were extremely high, and the adoring fans were going to enjoy the music no matter what.
Buckingham led off the evening alone, just himself and his acoustic guitar. He opened with "Shut Us Down" from 2006's unjustly overlooked Under the Skin. A number at once gentle and snappy, it allowed him to show off his world-class fingerstyle skills, bending and popping each string for maximum effect. He kicked things up with the second track, 1984's "Go Insane." Stripped of its dated production (and Miami Vice visuals), it kept its jangly accents and haunting edge.
The steadfast picker followed with his biggest solo hit, "Trouble." Perhaps the quintessential Buckingham tune, it combines a lilting melody and catchy chorus with an air of coked-out dread that is, well, troubling. "I should be saying goodnight/ I really shouldn't stay anymore/ Been so long since I held you/ Forgotten what love was for," he coos to a lover who clearly has spooked him somehow.
The pretty-but-fucked-up vibe continued through a breathy, languorous version of Fleetwood Mac's "Never Going Back Again" (aka, "The Song Every College Guy Tries to Learn on Acoustic Guitar"). It's not hard to hear why the Mac were a phenomenon in the late-1970s. Even if they only had Buckingham writing songs, they would have had more hits than most bands could ever dream of.
Buckingham took a break to address his multigenerational crowd. "Looking back, this song examines who I was at the time. I was defending against love, not looking for it." "Big Love" hit hard, its tangled mess of guitar lines weaving a spider's web of gnarliness giving sound to their conveyor's sweetly acid-tinged soul. After its yelping, sex-noise-spiked completion, the backing band (guitarist Neale Heywood, multi-instrumentalist Brett Tuggle and drummer Wilfredo Reyes, Jr.) finally joined their leader onstage. The foursome tossed off a competent, chiming take on the title track to Under the Skin.
Less winning was new track "Illumination." The "process of illumination" pun didn't work for me, and it was a surprisingly lifeless electric song, at least compared to Buckingham's usual standards. The lull didn't last long, however. The rollicking Mac classic "Secondhand News" brought the audience right back into things with a good old-fashioned singalong and patented outro solo. "It's good to be home. I consider myself to be lucky to live in two different worlds: Fleetwood Mac and my solo projects," the visibly perspiring songsmith said.
Things would not stay sunny for long. The group launched into "Tusk," the title track to 1979's beautiful disaster of an album. A paranoid, horn-driven half-rocker, its snaking rhythms make you shake your hips despite the creepy jealousy that permeates the lyrics.
The newer tunes dominated the second half of the set. "Stars Are Crazy" was a highlight, riding a buoyant rhythm and Buckingham's flamenco-flecked nylon string wanderings. "I'm So Afraid" shined, as well, with the most explosive electric guitar workout of the evening. Buckingham was downright Hendrixian, physically pounding his axe and coaxing out wails and screeches like a man possessed. The enthralled crowd gave the performance a standing ovation, with more than a few members taking video on their phones for posterity.
He didn't let up for the set closer. "Go Your Own Way" ranks as perhaps Fleetwood Mac's most musically intense moment, a bitter and emotionally naked rattlesnake coil of a song. It did not disappoint as a capper, but the hip crowd new better than to leave. After a very brief respite, the crew returned to the stage for what turned out to be an elongated encore. "Turn It On" was somehow both knotty and anthemic, a fine example of Buckingham's mid-career craft. "These guys are truly my brothers. Every time we get the band back together, we keep getting better," he noted with pride.