When Lindsey Buckingham treated the half-full house at the Wilbur Theatre to “Go Insane,” something remarkable happened. Though the Boston crowd was affectingly vocal on Tuesday night, it was impossible to overlook the empty rows on the floor and the unused third-floor balcony of the 1,200-capacity venue. But with his performance of his biggest solo hit (and frequent Fleetwood Mac live tune), a seismic shift of sympathy occurred, where instead of feeling badly for a performer who should be able to fill such a small hall, one could instead feel badly for every person who didn’t buy a ticket for any of those unoccupied seats.
Standing alone on an oriental rug in front of a Jenga-like assembly of amps, Buckingham delivered a set that included material from what he calls ‘the Small Machine,’ (his solo work) as well as a few classics from ‘the Big Machine,’ (Fleetwood Mac). The set was paced perfectly, as he warmed up and let himself indulge in the amazing guitar intricacies that he makes look so effortless.
When he presents these Big Machine songs in the Small Machine format, it’s almost difficult to imagine there being a need for any additional instruments, because Buckingham fills the sound so well with just six strings. On some of these numbers though, he did cue up a prerecorded rhythm track. It’s odd to hear a recording of his voice, humbly counting in the beat to “Go Your Own Way,” when one considers how notoriously expensive it was to record “Rumours,” the album that houses this song. The earnest backing rhythm here sounded like he programmed it on an outdated computer. But there is a definite charm in all of this, and to watch him rip that famous solo is just as inspiring as it would be in a sold-out arena in 1977.
In the quiet after Buckingham had completed the Fleetwood Mac song, “Come,” from their 2003 album, “Say You Will,” a fan shouted out a request for “Tusk.” Buckingham’s response was as good-natured as Bill Hader’s impersonation of him on “Saturday Night Live” as the guest who host Deandre Cole just never has enough time to get to on the “What Up With That?” talk show. When presented with a request for a song that has come to represent the Big Machine overindulgence that is so distinctly the opposite of what Buckingham is doing on this tour, the singer joked, “That was as close as you’re going to get to ‘Tusk’ … unless you brought a marching band with you.”
Maybe that was the reason behind the multiple empty rows in the front; the dude who requested the song had planned to bring a marching band with him, but they never showed up. Regardless, Buckingham never appeared fazed by the small turn-out. He had no problem tapping into the passion of his compositions, and rendering these songs with whatever energies they required, whether it be whispering, shouting until his veins popped out or playing solos with his mouth open and his eyes closed.
“Boston, you were an absolute pleasure,” said Buckingham as he took a final bow goodnight. The pleasure was all ours, Lindsey.