Concert Review

How Buckingham McVie Brought Down the House in Downtown Phoenix

Buckingham McVie perform at Comerica Theatre on Tuesday, July 25, 2017.
Buckingham McVie perform at Comerica Theatre on Tuesday, July 25, 2017. Jim Louvau
Lindsey Buckingham is really excited to once again be working with Christine McVie, his former Fleetwood Mac cohort, after her 15-year break from that band. And he mentioned it to the crowd more than once during the pair’s show last night at Comerica Theatre. Not immediately, though. First, the two took the stage to play four songs with Buckingham on guitar and McVie on keys.

The two have a long musical history that started when began in Fleetwood Mac, when Buckingham joined in 1975. McVie left the band in 1998, but in 2014 reached out with her desire to join up again with her former bandmates. This renewed communication led to she and Buckingham exploring the idea of making a record together, and they hit the studio. The result? A self-titled, 10-song pop-touched rock record that features contributions from Mac-ers Mick Fleetwood on drums and John McVie on bass.

Buckingham McVie started off the downtown Phoenix show with Buckingham’s early ‘80s classic “Trouble,” and exuded a deeply sincere warmth from the jump. Where his original version is a little more poppy, this take was a little thicker, more melodic. His vocals were majestic and broad, softly dripping with a bit of pride and contentment.

McVie matched his emotion with “Wish You Were Here,” a Fleetwood Mac track from 1982's Mirage album. It took just a second for McVie to work her way into her voice, and when it snapped into place with her bold delivery, it was musical magic. Her distinct sound blanketed the room and solidified her presence.

In possibly the most chills-inducing moment of the night, Buckingham sang another Mac song that he penned, “Never Going Back Again,” from the beloved Rumours LP. The song is already a goddamned gut-puncher, but Lindsey cranked up its power and slayed with a quiet version that was sparse in parts, intense in others, and haunting overall. He took his voice from whisper to falsetto and, in both those moments, the audience held the excitement-driven friction as long as possible until the collective bubble exploded into cheers and some “We love you, Lindsey” shouts.

The rest of the band joined them, and before getting into one of the songs from their new release, “Sleeping Around the Corner,” Buckingham let loose on his happiness about their reconnection.

“Making this record,” he said, “was something that we didn’t plan on doing, but once we started, we wondered why we hadn’t done it sooner.” He didn’t get into any details about why McVie left Fleetwood Mac or dig up any dirt. He simply said that it’s “a beautiful, circular thing” the group has, and he's happy she reached out and found her way back. That was clear from the beaming smile that barely left his face all night.

The songs they’ve created together for this self-titled record of duets are strong, solid rockers. They sounded fantastic singing together on “Sleeping Around the Corner,” which had some nice pop and punch to it. “Feel About You” was full of sweet sentiment, and when they delivered lines like “You’re so beautiful / That’s how I feel about you,” they expressed their bond by pointing to one another, going next level with the sweet-making.

click to enlarge Buckingham McVie perform at Comerica Theatre on Tuesday, July 25, 2017. - JIM LOUVAU
Buckingham McVie perform at Comerica Theatre on Tuesday, July 25, 2017.
Jim Louvau
McVie left the keyboard for “Too Far Gone” and did a little dancing along with her singing and maraca-shaking. Before they got into another newbie, “Love Is Here to Stay,” a fast rocker with a little bluesy edge, their convo got a little humorous. As Buckingham was waxing sentimental about their history and saying that they’ve “found this space together that they’ve never found before,” she stopped him to say he was a little out of breath. “It’s the dry heat,” he replied, which of course everyone found hilarious, as for four months straight here, heat jokes reign supreme.

Their great chemistry stretched to the relationship with the band – an array of stellar players who, aside from the recently added drummer, have all worked with either Buckingham, McVie, or both over the years. The new songs are strong. At this point, you probably can’t take the Mac out of either musician's live repertoire, but this didn’t feel like Fleetwood Mac rehashed at all. Buckingham's own guitar mastery was another beacon of the evening; also pretty impressive was his guitar collection. He switched guitars after every song.

And as far as the Mac goes, they played a pretty good assortment of those songs: “Little Lies,” “Tusk,” and “You Make Loving Fun." On the latter, McVie’s vocals hit that magical high-note sweet spot that makes heads spin. They ended the set with “Go Your Own Way,” and that’s when the crowd finally broke the invisible barrier and went sing-along and dance in the aisles crazy.

They came back out for a three-song encore, led by Fleetwood Mac’s “Everywhere,” and two of their new ones, “Lay Down for Free,” and “Game of Pretend” – a nicely crafted ballad that McVie offered with tenderness and mastery, closing the night serenely, which is where they seem content to live these days.

Set List:

1. "Trouble"
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"
11. "Tusk"
12. "Love Is Here to Stay"
13. "Red Sun"
14. "You Make Loving Fun"
15. "I’m So Afraid"
16. "Go Your Own Way"

17. "Everywhere"
18. "Lay Down for Free"
19. "Game of Pretend"

Critic’s Notebook:
Last Night: Lindsey Buckingham and Christine McVie at Comerica Theatre
The crowd: Extremely excited Fleetwood Mac fans
Overheard: "This is my mom's favorite," three different times, from three different people
Notebook dumps: I thought there’d be more people wearing flowy scarves

Correction: This article has been updated from its original version to reflect that Lindsey Buckingham joined Fleetwood Mac in 1975.
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Amy Young is an arts and culture writer who also spends time curating arts-related exhibits and events, and playing drums in local bands French Girls and Sturdy Ladies.
Contact: Amy Young