A former member of The Zombies recently said that once groups went on tour to promote albums, but now they make records to support new tours. Lindsey Buckingham has taken this one step further. First, he released a new studio CD, Seeds We Sow; then went out on tour; and finally released Blu-ray, DVD, and CD editions of a concert promoting the other new album. Open your wallets, Fleetwood Mac completists, for Songs from the Small Machine: Live in L.A.
Filmed in April 2011 at the Saban Theater in Beverly Hills, the concert is now available in high-definition with DTS surround sound, Dolby Digital 5.1, and Dolby Digital Stereo.The two-hour, 19-song show is a slow cooker, opening with a sampling of Buckingham’s solo singing and playing before adding other musicians and building the energy. Not exactly Fleetwood Mac heights--but then again, that’s part of the point. This is a “small machine” and, as a result, 5.1 sound isn’t really required to experience the flavor of the show.
The concert opens with “Shut Us Down” and the bluesy “Trouble” by a troubadour changing acoustic guitars from song to song and running a dramatic range of dynamics. Getting intimate with the audience, Buckingham admits that, stripping away all of the things that have made him successful, his center is simply one man and his guitar. Apparently the lack of supporting players in his opening numbers also frees him to cry out his lyrics in a way that wouldn’t fit in with an ensemble setting. He then offers old favorites “Never Going Back Again” and “Big Love.” For the latter, he reveals the song had started out as a contemplation on alienation, but he views it now as a song about the power of change.
For “Under The Skin” and “All My Sorrows," Buckingham is joined by two of his bandmates for the evening, Neil Haywood and Brett Tugell. They first supplement Buckingham’s vocals and acoustic guitars before adding drummer Ralfreado Ramez for the electric set. This begins after Buckingham talks about the origins of his new album, which he claims is partly about the microcosm of family life. It’s really at this point where the power of the night kicks into a higher gear with new songs “In Our Own Time” and “Illumination.” After another quick look back at the Mac with “Second Hand News” and “Tusk,” we learn the explanation for the concert’s title. Fleetwood Mac is the "big machine," his solo work the “small machine.” Making an analogy with films, he believes the smaller scale projects, like independent films, allows an artist to grow and “feed the heart.” It also seems clear that Buckingham is looser without his more famous band-mates, able to invest his energies into his finger work without need of meshing in with the architecture of Fleetwood Mac.