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Four years after they kicked him out, Lindsey Buckingham shows Fleetwood Mac what they’re missing

Lindsey Buckingham, far left, pictured in the 1970s with Mick Fleetwood (back left), Stevie Nicks (front) and John McVie (right). Buckingham was kicked out of Fleetwood Mac in 2018 - AP
Lindsey Buckingham, far left, pictured in the 1970s with Mick Fleetwood (back left), Stevie Nicks (front) and John McVie (right). Buckingham was kicked out of Fleetwood Mac in 2018 - AP

Just up the road from the Palace of the same name, Lindsey Buckingham took to the stage at the London Palladium. The last time the versatile American guitarist and singer-songwriter played in the city was in 2015, for an audience of almost half a million over five nights at the O2 Arena. But that was with his former band, Fleetwood Mac. His long overdue return saw him perform for a rather more modest crowd of 2,200.

For the most part, it seemed to suit the 72-year-old virtuoso well enough on a solo show geared for intimacy, focusing on musicianship and songcraft. Well-chosen material from across eight solo albums demonstrated his talent for succinct folk pop songcraft, with thoughtful lyrics and precise hooks. But right at the end, as if to remind everyone where he really belongs, Buckingham dialled up the rock swagger with his talented three-piece band and ripped out a version of I’m So Afraid from Fleetwood Mac’s 1976 self-titled album that could have brought a stadium to its knees.

Stalking the stage, with the sustain and distortion on his electric guitar maxed out, Buckingham played a long, fierce solo that threatened to blow the roof off the august Edwardian venue. That would have been worth the price of entry alone. Then he busted out a raucous version of Mac classic Go Your Own Way to leave the whole theatre on their feet and singing.

It has been a tough few years for Buckingham. He was ejected from the transatlantic supergroup for the sin of smirking behind fellow vocalist Stevie Nicks whilst she gave a speech at an award ceremony in 2018. (Nicks denies this, claiming it is because Buckingham asked her to delay a Fleetwood Mac tour for three months so he could tour his solo album.) Nicks and Buckingham have history, high school sweethearts who broke up during the making of Mac’s 1977 classic Rumours and have been sniping at each other ever since.

Given that Buckingham was effectively musical director as well as one of their principal songwriters and singers, I wonder if he took it as a backhand compliment that they hired two musicians to replace him, Neil Finn of Crowded House and Mike Campbell of Tom Petty’s Heartbreakers. But to add injury to insult, whilst that incarnation of the Mac toured world stadiums, Buckingham suffered a heart attack, resulting in emergency surgery that damaged his vocal cords. To compound his ill fortune, his wife of over 20 years filed for divorce in 2021 (although the couple are said to be working through their issues).

Lindsey Buckingham at The London Palladium, Oct 1 2022 - Martin Harris/Capital Pictures
Lindsey Buckingham at The London Palladium, Oct 1 2022 - Martin Harris/Capital Pictures

Buckingham had nothing to say about any of this onstage. Indeed, he didn’t have much to say at all, apart from shouting “OH YEAH!” and “LONDON!” at the top of his voice after completing some delicate guitar part, as if he still thought he had to project to the back row at Wembley. Fortunately, his voice appears to have made a full recovery, plus he is a past master at framing it in three-part harmonies. And he looked good, for all his troubles: skinny and rock ‘n’ roll in tight jeans, short jacket and winklepickers, a crown of curly grey hair atop his head. More importantly, he sounded fantastic.

He kept his guitar tech busy all night, switching instruments for every song. Buckingham picks with incredible skill, playing bass and lead parts at the same time. His trademark gimmick is to drench everything in echo and delay, so that melodies are conjured from cascades of repeating notes. In a solo semi-acoustic section, he slowed down and sped up through a bold reinvention of Mac’s Second Hand News, bringing emotional heft to a still timely lyric: “I know there’s nothing to say/ Someone has taken my place.” Well, two someones actually. But the original is almost always the best.

Touring until Oct 4; lindseybuckingham.com