Big Machine / Small Machine

October 27, 2011

Renée and I saw Lindsey Buckhingham play at the Uptown Theatre in Napa earlier this week and saw an amazing, high energy performance. The audience was his people — not only because he’s a Bay Area boy but also because the Uptown tends to draw an older crowd. Most of the audience was alive when Rumours came out and they owned it and played it until the grooves were worn down. Although the program announced him as Lindsey Buckingham from Fleetwood Mac, there wasn’t a person in the audience who needed that additional explanation.

He has lost none of his energy or love of primal scream therapy. He took every solo and played guitar hero like the best of them. The crowd loved the mix of his new album (his best in awhile) and Fleetwood Mac favorites (including a version of Tusk that didn’t require a marching band to come on stage thankfully).

About three quarters of the way, Lindsey spoke to the audience of the big machine and small machine. He recently came off tour with Fleetwood Mac and that was full-on big machine. Big personalities, big venues, lots of gear and set list of oldies designed to please. The big machine is the engine that feeds the continued rock star lifestyle of the once successful rock stars who can’t count on continued CD sales beyond the occasional remastered/remixed/completist box set that gets issued once a decade (cf Pink Floyd, Heart, The Who).

After the Fleetwood Mac tour as Lindsey put it, he “found a hole in his schedule” and decided to record a quick album and tour behind it. Small machine all the way — he started by playing a number of songs solo before a small band joined him for the rest of the set. It was informal, conversational and one of the best shows I’ve seen in long-time (I would venture to say the rest of the audience agreed). Economically a very different model but for all I know he could make more from the small machine. Like a big-time movie actor who does independent films to exercise a different part of his art, Lindsey clearly got more than money from the small machine. We were all very thankful he did.

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