Friday’s team-up by Lindsey Buckingham / Christine McVie at the Hard Rock in Northfield was more or less a Fleetwood Mac affair—minus a couple key members—much in the same way the duo’s recent self-titled debut is a Mac record sans Stevie Nicks.
Heck, even Mac namesakes Mick Fleetwood (drums) and John McVie (bass) feature on the new album, which started as a group project but was rebranded a duet for the band’s principal songwriters after Buckingham’s one-time “Gypsy” paramour declined participation.
Peculiar, given that 2003’s Say You Will was billed as a Mac effort despite the presence of McVie, who appeared (with ex-husband John) on every Mac release from 1970 -1997, then “retired” after the live video / CD The Dance (but sang backup on couple a Say You Will tracks as a favor).
Lindsey Buckingham / Christine McVie would almost certainly move more units had it been designated an official Mac offering. Perhaps not in Rumours or even Say You Will numbers, but enough to warrant more press coverage, book more talk shows, and finance the great-grandkids’ college educations.
That’s because it’s a damn good pop album, and a better-than-anyone-expected outing by the 68-year old guitarist (whose professional career started with Buckingham / Nicks in ’73) and septuagenarian songbird (whose last disc was 2004’s In the Meantime). While not entirely nostalgia-free, it looks more forward than back…which can’t be said for many recordings done these days by rock’s elder statesmen.
Lindsey (American) and Christine (British) focused on that new material at the Ohio venue, where they rolled out a whopping eight of the album’s ten cuts for high-rollers who’d probably hoped for a heftier helping of Fleetwood Mac’s breezy, SoCal-seasoned radio hits.
But the fresh fare (which we’ll get to in a moment) proved as effervescent, harmonious, and hooky as familiar classics like “Second Hand News,” “Monday Morning,” and “Dreams”—and came cushioned between enough placating Mac pieces to warrant the waits.
The nineteen-song set commenced with brooding Buckingham single “Trouble” (from 1981’s Law and Order), with the grey-at-the-temples fingerpicker (no plectrum, thank you) negotiating the guitar neck with practiced ease while still-blonde Christine eked out chords on a Yamaha CP-4 electric piano.
Surprisingly, the first Mac selection on the menu wasn’t a Billboard smash: Mirage (1983) deep track “Wish You Were Here” was striking stripped to its bare essentials, with just McVie on vocals and Buckingham on six-string.
Lindsey uncorked Rumours with a mischievous “Never Going Back Again,” working over his Taylor guitar and altering his voice from plaintive whispers to jubilant, defiant shouts. The haunting “Shut Us Down” (from 2006’s Under the Skin) was the second—and final—solo album offering of the night.
That’s because the moonlighting Mackers were then joined onstage by a backing ensemble of four ace players who helped bring more Buckingham / McVie nuggets (like the breezy “Sleeping Around the Corner,” bubbly “Feel About You,” ruminative “In My World,” and rugged “Too Far Gone”) to life. The fellows also faithfully recreated ‘80s Mac winners like the earnest “Hold Me,” love-struck “Little Lies” (with the band subbing backup vocals for Nicks and Carly Simon), and tribal “Tusk” (with McVie on accordion)—which brought most of the audience to its feet.
McVie was positively demure when it came to mid-song banter. So Buckingham picked up the slack, thanking fans for coming out and supporting what they hope will be the first of several go-rounds for the duet.
“When Christine and I first started exchanging ideas across the ocean, we knew something was up,” he reflected while clutching his custom Rick Turner instrument.
“We knew there was a spark…a potential, certainly. We didn’t know was how it would go when we got in the same room after fifteen years. It could’ve gone either way!”
Buckingham also noted that the “common denominator” for the duet was that both he and McVie had taken—at various points over the decades—taken leave of Mac to pursue smaller solo works that fanned the flames of artistic growth. So when they reunited before rehearsals for Mac’s 2014 On With the Show tour, they determined to buck trends and defy expectations by doing things on their own terms. Even if that meant tabling the next official Mac in favor of an untried two-some.
“We were two different people and a whole new equation, but it was a beautiful one!” said Lindsey. That’s why we’re here!”
That “beautiful” equation was luminous on the easygoing “Love Is Here to Stay” and infectious long-distance relationship light-rocker “Red Sun.”
McVie assumed control on “You Make Loving Fun,” but Buckingham’s crisp guitar leads dominated the dirty, grinding “I’m So Afraid.” They both brought their best to what is perhaps the quintessential Buckingham-McVie co-write, “Go Your Own Way,” to finish the main set on an exhilarating high.
Buckingham introduced his cohorts at the top of the encore and detailed what each man brought to the mix: “As much as Christine and I have this rediscovered chemistry, these guys bring so much to the stage with us.”
There was frizzy-haired super-drummer Jimmy Paxson (Adam Levine, Idina Menzel, Rod Stewart), whose slick stick work anchored bassist Federico Pol’s four and five-string grooves, and keyboardist / guitarist Brett Tuggle (of David Lee Roth Skyscraper fame), whose Korg Kronos synthesizer patches provided texture and flavor.
Buckingham reserved highest praise for long-time musical conspirator Neale Haywood, who spent the night strumming and picking Fender Strats, Les Pauls, and sundry acoustic guitars to Lindsey’s left.
“He is a good friend, he is family for sure…and he’s also my favorite guitarist,” said Lindsey. “He always has our back, and has a great overview if there’s a blind spot of getting from point A to B.”
When it was time to say goodbye, McVie did so not with go-to ballad “Songbird” but with sweet, elegant new piano piece “Game of Pretend.”
“You are the reason for my happiness,” she cooed. “You take away the emptiness.”
This dynamic duo certainly soothed spirits with this show, which was as rejuvenating for listeners as the partnership has apparently been for Buckingham and McVie.