Carlock: Buckingham plays up close and personal in Saugatuck

Published 2:51 pm Friday, November 30, 2012

A Day in the Life


I’d always wanted to see Lindsey Buckingham or Fleetwood Mac live, so I was shocked to hear he was appearing on Nov. 16 in Saugatuck, a little arts colony on Kalamazoo Lake with a population just shy of 1,000. I wasn’t so shocked to hear the 412-seat Saugatuck Center for the Arts was sold out. A few days before the show date, I mentioned this to a Los Angeles friend, and, suddenly, it appeared that I might end up on Lindsey’s guest list.

Anyone who knows Troy Morris knows he’s been one of the planet’s most enthusiastic Lindsey fans for decades. That passion led to his eventual befriending of Lindsey through his work as a Senior Pro Audio Account Manager at Westlake Pro, one of the premier recording studio equipment dealers on the West Coast. Being a true Lindsey evangelist, Troy offered to inquire on my behalf. And so three hours before showtime, I was confirmed, and I was on my way to an amazing night, just 45 minutes north of my recording studio in Benton Harbor.

The venue proved to be the perfect blend of intimacy, studio-quality acoustical design and a veritable holding chamber for fans who couldn’t believe they could see an artist of Lindsey’s caliber at such close range. From a performer’s standpoint, the stage was more than 24 feet wide and deep enough to be considered legit by pro touring standards. With the feeling of connection you usually only get in a club, the venue provides artists with an attentive audience through an “MTV Unplugged soundstage” type of experience.

After picking up tickets at will call, it was great to bump into Lindsey’s tech Stan Lamendola in the lobby. Stan’s been guitar teching in earnest for the past six years, counting regular work with Lindsey among other live gigs with artists such as Steve Stevens (Billy Idol), Billy Corgan (Smashing Pumpkins) and Davey Johnstone (Elton John).

During the show, Stan has the sidestage task of swapping Lindsey’s multiple instruments and keeping them tuned fresh for each new song. The four primaries are a Rick Turner Renaissance acoustic in open tuning, a Rick Turner Model 1 electric in standard tuning (the iconic instrument seen on Fleetwood Mac tours), a Taylor 314 CE model acoustic in standard tuning and a Gibson Chet Atkins classical in standard tuning. The latter was blended with a low octaver on a creepily reinvented  version of  his  solo hit, “Go  Insane.”

I’m sure Jack Whitehead (my guitar tech from the Funkin’ Rock Orchestra) would’ve loved seeing Stan’s flawless flow.

And what can I say about the darkly enigmatic singer/songwriter set loose on Saugatuck’s shore? Lindsey is still every bit the quiet, brooding genius — exuding more than a hint of sex and danger behind a vaguely spiritual veneer. That’s quite the opposite of today’s pop stars who hope to get sponsored by Dr. Pepper instead of Pepsi because it speaks to their individualism …
His voice? Impeccably strong and identifiable. The songs? As  personal and emotionally raw as any of the material from his Fleetwood Mac projects. And his guitar playing? A serious schooling to anyone who thought finger-picking styles were sweet and ballad-y. One word to describe the show? “Dynamic.” Whispers trade with shouts — sweetly gentle acoustic tones transform into hairy, semi-distorted power plucking, all within the same song. The genteel among you should bring earplugs.

Lindsey’s timekeeping during uptempos was relentless and punishing. There was a collectively held breath as seat-edge sitters wondered when he would fatigue. Songs early in the set received standing ovations.

His blindingly fast solo version of “Big Love” makes you forget Fleetwood Mac ever recorded it and may forever be the popular music benchmark for anyone who wants to test their finger-picking skill and endurance. “Big Love” has all the awe factor of the best bluegrass banjo pickers, while mercifully swapping out the awful sound of a banjo for the elegance of the classical guitar. Further, he rejects bluegrass’ major pentatonic blues slides and dow- home grins on the player’s faces for Aeolian tonality and bends. In true Buckingham spirit, he effortlessly turns that musical smile upside down. His playing can best be described as a human sequencer — where his frothy intensity and passion boil off the fretboard above undertows of hammering deliberation.

The 14-song set included solo cuts “Cast Away Dreams,” “Not Too Late,” “Shut Us Down,” “Trouble,” “Rock Away Blind” and “Seeds We Sow.” Songs from his Fleetwood Mac work included “Bleed To Love Her,” “Come,” ‘Never Going Back Again” and “‘I’m So Afraid.” During “Go Your Own Way” about 10 of us rushed the stage and I stood directly in front of Lindsey, who came to each side of the pedal boards to allow some fans to strum his guitar with him mid-song. Seeing him embrace the give and take he’s afforded on what he called “a car tour” was great. He acknowledged the value in the exchange at the show’s close as he promised to return if we’d have him back.

It’s great to see shows in venues under 1,000 such as the Saugatuck Center for the Arts that provide a place for the ever-serious Lindsey Buckingham to perform his music intensely, yet be able to relax a bit and truly connect with his audience. Thanks to Troy, Stan and Lindsey for a memorable night.

Dave Carlock is a 25-year veteran of the entertainment business whose work as a recording engineer and producer, touring musician, and songwriter made him Googleable. His continuing work as an Independent Content Creator of Sound and Image has earned him a Grammy Award certificate, two Platinum Record Awards, and a Paragon Award in advertising. Currently, he brings national and international artists to make records and music videos at his production studio in the Benton Harbor Arts District.