Lindsey Buckingham’s acrimonious departure from the band that shall not be named is the best thing that could have happened to his career in 2018. While being ousted from the place he’s called home on-and-off since 1975 isn’t what he expected, the reality is that staying together for the sake of the fans is no way to live. The reality is that the band that shall not be named hasn’t released anything fresh since 2003’s “Say You Will” and began to lose its perspective regarding the intangible chemistry required to churn out one multi-platinum selling album after another. The reality is that they were a killer Peter Green-led blues outfit at the beginning, but likely weren’t going to produce a “Rumours” or a “Tusk” without later tapping into Buckingham’s sonic architecture.
He was the creative catalyst whose singing, songwriting, producing, and visceral six-string sorcery propelled them straight through the rock stratosphere, so it’s easy to see why he would be simultaneously surprised and saddened by the way things ended. But, in true artistic fashion, he harnessed his frustration by embarking on a tour designed to declare his independence from the past while also shedding new light on his solo material. The fact that it coincides with the release of “Solo Anthology: The Best of Lindsey Buckingham” by Rhino Records is a bonus, because he finally gets to prove who had the most interesting career away from the chaos.
Western New York experienced his greatness in-the-flesh on Tuesday night when he stopped in for an evening rife with catharsis, finger-picking, and an intimacy that made the 1,100-seat Riviera Theatre feel like your living room. Not even a Winter Weather Advisory could prevent the sold-out crowd from reveling in such a majestic evening, which, given how erratically people respond to the season’s first significant snowfall, is saying something. With only a month left on the calendar, I’ll say without trepidation that this was the best concert I attended in 2018.
“Don’t Look Down” and “Go Insane” got things cooking early as fans embraced the opportunity to hear Buckingham revisit his lesser-known work with a band that was clearly invested in getting everything to sound just right. They played off each other beautifully and knew exactly when to drift back while their leader shredded his way into a trance on multiple occasions.
Smoldering takes on “Trouble,” “I Must Go,” and “Shut Us Down” set the table for an acoustic rendering of “Never Going Back Again” that has quietly morphed into the final nail-in-the-coffin against his former bandmates. It’s rare for a 41-year-old song to be gifted with such an abrupt sense of urgency, but it tore the house down. Coupling it with the emotional exorcism that is “Big Love” was a masterful move that left the crowd wondering how the night could possibly get any better.
Well, the trio of “Tusk,” “I’m So Afraid,” and “Go Your Own Way” took care of that, because Buckingham’s inner guitar hero was finally unleashed. To the delight of those who recognize him to be one of the greatest players of all time, he threw himself into an extended solo on the aforementioned “Afraid” that exemplified what the band that shall not be named lost when they let him go. Mike Campbell is a beast, but he can’t replace the honesty and unbridled intensity that made those songs swing in the first place.
It’s a testament to how well-respected Buckingham is that he received a standing ovation before playing a note, and, as badly as some fans may want him to go back again, his two-hour triumph in North Tonawanda showed that he never has to.