“It’s our third show … this is in support of a new album that is actually not out yet,” Lindsey Buckingham half-apologized, having begun his set with two songs from the disc in question: “Gift of Screws,” due Sept. 16.
It’s a louder, sunnier affair than 2006’s intense, partly acoustic “Under the Skin,” with a more rock’n’roll vibe that suffused the entire show. Last time around, Buckingham’s 1984 hit “Go Insane” got the brooding, slowed-down solo treatment; tonight it was restored to its full sinister pop glory. By the time the stage was flash-bombed with blue lighting for a manic “Tusk,” Buckingham, Neale Heywood and Brett Tuggle had switched out their guitars almost as many times as Sonic Youth — and it was just the fifth song of the set.
The well-drilled band — with Tuggle also playing bass and keyboards, Wilfredo Reyes Jr. on percussion and a full complement of samplers, processors and sound effects — brought everything that Fleetwood Mac could except personality.
That’s what the frontman’s for. As dark and nervous as his music sometimes is (to say nothing of his all-black wardrobe), the 58 year-old Buckingham was unstudied and warm onstage — happy to be playing, genuinely grateful to fill even a small room (the three-tiered Newmark is an especially intimate 880 seats) and sheepish about his place in the business.
“The record company is loosely calling it a single,” he said before “Did You Miss Me,” which is indeed a breathlessly harmonic, super-catchy love song. “I say that because I don’t know what that means anymore. They didn’t make a video.” Other highlights from the new record included the title track, a pure roadhouse stomp, and “Time Precious Time,” a maximalist fingerpicking ballad any Iron and Wine or John Fahey fan could love. It was certainly one of the songs Buckingham had in mind when he refers to “Big Love” as “the template for many things I’ve been experimenting and trying since then.” The 1984 Fleetwood Mac single remains a tour de force of multi-part acoustic guitar wizardry and vocal fireworks.
Best of all was “I’m So Afraid,” a track from Fleetwood Mac’s 1975 self-titled album that has become Buckingham’s “Cortez the Killer”: an ominous, exquisitely slow-paced workout that built into a mind-bending and rapturous extended solo. It left Buckingham literally gasping for breath and the crowd ecstatic on its feet.
The perfectly rousing first encore of “Go Your Own Way” and “Second Hand News” seemed anticlimactic by comparison, and when Buckingham returned a second time, the audience was just as happy to hear “Don’t Look Down,” from 1992’s “Out of the Cradle” (“and to think you had to talk me into doing that one,” he said to Tuggle), plus two more songs from “Gift of Screws.” You know you’re still doing great work after 35 years when you can play the hits because you want to, not because you have to.