CD Review of Live at the Bass Performance Hall by Lindsey Buckingham
Recommended if you like
post-1975 Fleetwood Mac,
Lindsey Buckingham
Label
Warner Bros./Reprise
Lindsey Buckingham:
Live at the Bass
Performance Hall

Reviewed by Jeff Giles

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W
hen he released 2006’s Under the Skin, his first album since 1992’s Out of the Cradle, Lindsey Buckingham told reporters that he already had a another album ready to go – a collection of higher-volume pieces that would provide a more rock-inflected companion for Skin, and which would hopefully be out within a year. This turned out to be a bunch of crap, of course – it’s been almost two years since Under the Skin was released, and all we’ve got to show for it is this stopgap live release, culled from a performance at Fort Worth’s Bass Performance Hall – but being a Buckingham fan means getting accustomed to waiting half a lifetime between projects, so his audience will no doubt forgive him this trespass.

Whether they’ll be moved to go out and purchase Live at the Bass Performance Hall is another matter entirely. Okay, so it’s Lindsey Buckingham, with all the stacks of guitars you’ve come to expect from the once-and-again Fleetwood Mac member, but much of his charm as a recording artist and performer – particularly in recent years – stems from his uncommon gift for using the studio to assemble brain-bendingly intricate webs of sound around his songs. He’s never lost his ability to write actual songs, but stripped down and placed in front of an audience, his material often sounds curiously, distractingly incomplete.

Lindsey Buckingham

To his credit, Buckingham avoids front- or back-loading the set with songs from Under the Skin, opting instead to scatter a half-dozen of his most recent songs throughout the performance, stringing them together with classic Fleetwood Mac numbers (“Never Going Back Again,” “Second Hand News,” “Big Love,” “Go Your Own Way,” and – on the DVD – “Tusk”) and stray solo hits (“Trouble,” “Go Insane,” and, yes, “Holiday Road”). To say he’s aged well would be an understatement – Buckingham doesn’t seem to have aged much in the last 30 years, he’s in fine voice here, and his way with a guitar is, as always, beyond reproach.

Still, who needs live versions of these songs? Buckingham has always been so skilled in the studio that his older recordings have aged as well as he has, and hearing them live doesn’t have the liberating effect that this type of release often provides. If anything, you’ll find yourself wanting to take out Rumours or Under the Skin again.

The DVD portion of the show is a nice bonus, but it really isn’t essential, unless you have a soft spot for watching Buckingham slip into Maybe He’s Crazy mode between songs while he reels off chunks of typically elliptical between-song patter (he may not be on drugs, but if he is, he really needs to share with the rest of us). Frustratingly, the DVD’s most intriguing component – a documentary titled “Not Too Late” – winds up being the least entertaining part of the show; it teeters between handicam footage edited to songs from Under the Skin, and handicam footage of Buckingham mumbling about the state of his solo career. Don’t feel bad if you fall asleep watching it.

Still, reheated Lindsey Buckingham is better than no Lindsey Buckingham at all. For all its faults, Live at the Bass Performance Hall makes for a decent de facto best-of compilation with crowd noise. If you can’t figure out how to burn a mix CD of Buckingham’s finest career moments, this is your next best thing.

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