Monday, November 5, 2012

Lindsey Buckingham and a surprisingly riled up crowd, last night at Yardley Hall

Posted By on Mon, Nov 5, 2012 at 11:45 AM

This is not from last night but this is exactly how he looked last night.
  • Time Out Chicago.
  • This is not from last night but this is exactly how he looked last night.
Yardley Hall, at Johnson County Community College, is a nice, big, dignified venue — somewhere between a high school theater and an opera house. If you are an important or otherwise lucky person, there are special boxes along the sides up top from which you can watch the show, possibly through tiny binoculars. This year's concert series includes Capitol Steps, Canada's Royal Winnipeg Ballet, and Garrison Keillor, among others. It is not the type of venue where people wave lighters in the air and chief surreptitious bowls in the corner.

But last night at Yardley, the baby boomers in the house simply could not contain themselves. You'd have thought Grover Norquist was in town for a paid speaking engagement. But no: the buzz was all for Lindsey Buckingham, former guitarist and vocalist for Fleetwood Mac.

I can't find a video online of that Chappelle's Show sketch about white people loving guitar solos, but if you've seen that, you pretty much understand the vibe last night. Buckingham is an amazing guitar player, and his 70-minute set was as much a clinic as it was a performance. He took the stage in a leather jacket and form-fitting jeans, looking at least a decade younger than his 63 years. After each song, he would tilt up his guitar and clutch it to his heart, as though it were a child, and bask in the wild applause. Then a tech would cross the stage and hand Buckingham a new guitar. I'm pretty sure he never used the same guitar on consecutive songs.

Buckingham's guitar choices have always been eccentric. He uses a lot of Turner guitars, and he seems to like guitars that are oddly small, and that sometimes don't have sound holes. For this reason, it is sometimes hard to tell whether he is playing an acoustic guitar or electric guitar. Last night, his guitars filled the room with a wide range of sounds. He can do everything: gentle, precise fingerpicking; wild, bombastic acoustic strums; even metal-ish guitar solos (seriously — he was shredding on "I'm So Afraid").

There are advantages and limitations to what Buckingham last night called "the small machine." Fleetwood Mac is the "big machine"; his solo performances are the "small machine." It's just Buckingham and his voice (plus occasional, tasteful drum and vocal backing tracks) up there, so he has devised ways of holding the audience's attention. Though he's soft-spoken and humble-seeming, he also has a flair for the dramatic. On "Not Too Late," he let the last note ring out for many seconds, its metallic ping echoing out and amplifying the room's reverent silence. Later, before launching into a guitar solo, he screamed "Dig it!" into the microphone. A few times, he closed songs by hopping gingerly and landing with a quiet, careful thud — part Eddie Van Halen theatrics, part something he might have picked up in a physical therapy session.

As the evening progressed, standing ovations became part of the routine. Around song four, it was just a smattering of excited adults up front. Forty-five minutes into the set, most of the room rose to hoot and holler after each song. By the time Buckingham got around to "Go Your Own Way," some people stood up and actually danced during the song. Up front, on stage left, a guy shaped like a Far Side character did the goofiest dance I have ever seen in my life. I mean, these people were loving life.

Buckingham encored with "Trouble," which is one of my favorite songs maybe ever. He played it gracefully and acoustically, and he shaded in even the smaller parts, like the outro guitar solo. Everyone clapped fiercely after, and as the place quieted down and Buckingham prepared to close the set, somebody behind me yelled "Tusk!" as loud he could, and I burst out laughing. It was just so belligerent, and such a perfect encapsulation of the crowd's alarming enthusiasm for the show, that I couldn't help myself. He finished things off with "Seeds We Sow," the title track of his latest album. (He also has a new live album, One Man Show, out on November 13, which features the exact same set list as last night.) I, too, would have preferred something from Tusk. But I was happy with what I got, and the rest of the crowd seemed to more than agree.

Set list:

Cast Away Dreams
Bleed To Love Her
Not Too Late
Stephanie
Come
Shut Us Down
Go Insane
Never Going Back Again
Big Love
So Afraid
Go Your Own Way
Trouble
Seeds We Sow

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