Three songs into Lindsey Buckingham and Christine McVie’s performance at Bass Concert Hall on Wednesday evening, you might have guessed they’d turned the set list on its head and put an encore number near the beginning. “Never Going Back Again,” one of the most memorable songs from Fleetwood Mac’s generation-defining 1977 album Rumours, was spectacular, delivered mostly by Buckingham alone on acoustic guitar.
McVie eventually joined in with subtle accordion-like keyboard accents, but mostly this was a showcase for her touring partner’s considerable talents as both a guitarist and singer. Plucking the strings gently with careful deliberation, Buckingham wrapped the song’s lyrics around the tune in dramatic fashion, bringing his voice down to a near-whisper before ending with a flourish of full guitar strums as the enraptured crowd went from dead-quiet to a rousing ovation that brought many out of their seats.
It was a magical moment, but one that underscored a somewhat unfortunate aspect of this unlikely partnership between two of Fleetwood Mac’s five musicians in the twilight of their careers. While neither Buckingham nor McVie hold the arena-level draw of their bandmate Stevie Nicks — who played the much-larger Erwin Center this past March — they’re both brilliant musicians in their own right. When they teamed up to make a duo album this year, it was a welcome and intriguing development. In concert, though, this feels more like the Lindsey Buckingham show, with McVie in a significant but ultimately supporting role.
That’s not necessarily a bad thing. Buckingham did a lot of solo tours during the years that McVie was on the sidelines, before she rejoined Fleetwood Mac in 2014, so it makes sense for him to be in the bandleader role. But although they clearly made a conscious effort to balance the set list between material from the new collaborative record and songs that each of them wrote in their Fleetwood Mac days, it was hard not to come away wishing for more of McVie’s best work with that band: “Warm Ways,” “Over My Head,” “Say You Love Me,” “Over and Over” and “Songbird,” just for starters.
They did play McVie’s Rumours standout “You Make Loving Fun,” plus two songs each from the Mirage and Tango in the Night records (highlighted by “Hold Me,” a top-5 hit from Mirage). But the most well-received selections from the Mac catalog were Buckingham’s: That early “Never Going Back Again” marvel, a full-throttle mid-set romp through the epic title track of Tusk, and the main-set closing smash “Go Your Own Way.”
A terrific acoustic version of “Trouble,” Buckingham’s first solo hit in 1981, proved a great show-starter and was one of two songs taken from his own records. We heard nothing from McVie’s three solo albums, even as her 1984 self-titled record was a solid seller that produced two top-40 singles.
To their credit, the duo pointedly focused much of the show on their new record, performing eight of its 10 tracks. Frequent calls for various favorites from the crowd (and, in one boorish fan’s case, simply “more Fleetwood Mac!”) didn’t deter them as they delivered excellent renditions of new tunes such as their co-write “Red Sun” and Buckingham’s “In My World” and “Sleeping Around the Corner.”
Perhaps the most intriguing move was their decision to forgo a big-bang encore for a more soft-and-sweet letdown. McVie got more of a spotlight here, singing “Everywhere” from the Tango in the Night album — one of a half-dozen Fleetwood Mac songs in the set that the band also performed during their last visit to Austin in 2015 — and the tender ballad “Game of Pretend,” one of two tracks from the new record that McVie wrote on her own.
And while it might have been nice to hear more from McVie in the occasional banter between songs, Buckingham did a lovely job of expressing his appreciation for this late-career rejuvenation of the duo’s songwriting partnership. Though they’d written together in the band before (including “World Turning” from the 1975 self-titled album and three tracks from 1987’s Tango in the Night), this new connection was special. “We knew there was a spark right away,” Buckingham said. “A wonderful circular karmic gift had been bestowed on us.”
Buckingham also used the encore to give extensive and much-deserved introductions to the duo’s backing crew. Guitarist Neale Heywood, guitarist/keyboardist Brett Tuggle and bassist Federico Pol all contributed backing vocals on many songs as well, while drummer Jimmy Paxson’s colorful personality and superb playing — alternately thunderous and subtle as needed — made him a clear crowd favorite.
Los Angeles pop band Wilderado played a short but well-received opening set, even if the crowd was partly held captive to hear them. No opener had been listed on the venue’s website; those who arrived early and scrambled to get to their seats by 8 p.m. would have had a hard time returning to the lobby to stand in long drink lines, thanks to Bass’s confounding floor plan of rows around 50 seats long with no middle aisles. Still, the four musicians made the best of it, playing harmony-rich original tunes and thanking the crowd profusely for the opportunity.
2. Wish You Were Here
3. Never Going Back Again
4. Shut Us Down
5. Sleeping Around the Corner
6. Feel About You
7. In My World
8. Too Far Gone
9. Hold Me
10. Little Lies
12. Love Is Here to Stay
13. Red Sun
14. You Make Loving Fun
15. I’m So Afraid
16. Go Your Own Way
18. Lay Down for Free
19. Game of Pretend
Scott Moore / Austin American-Statesman / Thursday, November 16, 2017