There was no explanation as to why Lindsey Buckingham decided to bring the last leg of his current tour through the small town of Newark, Ohio. Once the show was over, though, there was no need for explaination. At various points in his immaculate 90-minute set, Buckingham made mention to the conflict between the “small machine” and the “big machine” that have both steered his career. Of course, he’d tell you that he wouldn’t trade being in Fleetwood Mac for anything else in the world, but his favorite aspect of being a part of that big machine is that it allows him to do the small machine stuff, like playing a beautifully restored micro-theater in the center of an empty rustbelt downtown. That he so quickly wrote and recorded Seed We Sow was a result of that big machine unexpectedly shutting off. And with no direction, the spontaneous nature of the album is what Buckingham referred to “as his best work.” Any major dude would tell you that is a bit of an overstatement (I’d give that title to Law and Order), but after hearing a majority of his recent song-cycle played out onstage, the intimate crowd in attendance on this Wednesday night should believe it as truth. Even if they cheered loudest for the Mac’s most ubiquitous hit, “Go Your Own Way,” it was hard to escape the anthem-driven quality of a song like “That’s the Way That Love Goes,” or the crystalline pop melodies sparkling throughout “In Our Own Time.” There was no way to deny Buckingham the freedom to lean heavily on Seeds We Sow, especially when he would follow up the ’80s-vibed rhythms of “Illumination” with a rousing version of “Tusk.” Buckingham could likely play anything as long as it involved copious amounts of his breathtaking finger-picked prowess and familiar vocal tics.
As good as Buckingham plays with a full band behind him, the highlight was ultimately the first 30 minutes, as it presented the audience with a widescreen window into his songwriting. Taking center stage with only his acoustic guitar, Buckingham arranged some of his biggest songs—“Go Insane,” “Never Going Back Again,” and “Big Love”—into meditative versions that made every note edge-of-your-seat enlightening. Scaling pieces of the big machine back to how they were likely originally written is not something most expect from an artist as iconic as Buckingham. Perhaps that’s why he’s not a heavily lauded icon, though most hear his craftwork on a daily basis. Keeping a low profile and maintaining the pristine condition of the small machine is what Buckingham thrives on. He doesn’t need the stadiums or even the spirit of radio. All he needs is a captive audience and the opportunity to prove he’s still an unparalleled popsmith and one of the world’s most underrated guitar players.