Christine McVie and Lindsey Buckingham have been bandmates in Fleetwood Mac off and on for better than four decades. Some of it has been glorious, some of it rocky.
That’s kind of what their show Sunday night at the Times-Union Center was like, sometimes jaw-droppingly good, sometimes a little rough.
The two are touring behind an album they released earlier this year, “Lindsey Buckingham/Christine McVie,” that they put together during breaks with Fleetwood Mac. They played most of it Sunday night. A few of the songs — “Sleeping Around the Corner,” “Red Sun,” “Game of Pretend” — wouldn’t sound out of place on a Fleetwood Mac album. Others — “Lay Down for Free,” “Love is Here to Stay” — were a lot poppier than you’d expect from the duo. And one, “Too Far Gone,” was a straight-out rocker with tribal drum breaks.
People, of course, weren’t really there to hear the new songs anyway. Despite 40 percent of Fleetwood Mac being on hand, it wasn’t a Fleetwood Mac concert, and that freed Buckingham and McVie up to play what they wanted. The setlist included eight Fleetwood Mac songs (the same amount of songs they played from the new album), but they weren’t necessarily the songs people were expecting or played note-for-note, and that’s where the fun was to be found.
Sure, they played “Go Your Own Way” (and played it quite well, backed by a four-piece band). And “You Make Loving Fun” sounded just like you remember it from “Rumours.”
But “Never Going Back Again” was slowed a glacial pace, with Buckingham whispering the lyrics and enunciating every word to, frankly, a pretty creepy effect. They dug deep and pulled out gems like “Little Lies” and “Wish You Were Here.” “Tusk” was the highlight of the evening, with McVie taking the horn parts originally played by the USC marching band and playing them on accordion.
At first, it seemed the chemistry between Buckingham and McVie wasn’t working at all. They were five songs into the show before they both sang at the same time. But they warmed up as the night progressed, until he was leaning on her shoulder while holding a long note during a guitar solo.
McVie, who retired from music for 15 years before returning in ’13, sounded great, particularly on “Hold Me” and the first encore, “Everywhere.” The format of the show allowed her to step away from behind her bank of keyboards to sing a few songs.
Buckingham, as is his history, was all over the place. He can find the quiet moments in a song better than just about anyone, but he can also rage with the best of them — and sometimes it’s all during the same tune. Early on, during songs McVie was singing, he made little eye contact with the crowd and simply played. But he was howling and stalking the stage like a madman during “Tusk,” and holding nothing back as he poured everything into his guitar on “I’m So Afraid.”
The crowd was disappointingly small, with the entire upper deck of the Moran Theatre closed and a smattering of empty seats on the floor. That may be due to the sold-out Chris Stapleton show the night before and the Jaguars game that ended just hours earlier. There’s only so many entertainment dollars to be spent in one weekend, but for those who chose Buckingham and McVie, it was money well spent.