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Fleetwood's guitarist on his own

Michael Senft
The Arizona Republic
Oct. 29, 2006 12:00 AM

Stevie Nicks may be the singer most associated with Fleetwood Mac, but for 30 years the principal architect of the British rock band's sound has been guitarist Lindsey Buckingham. His deft production, sharp songwriting and stunning guitar playing have been a highlight of Mac's records since he and Nicks joined the band in 1975. Earlier this month the California native released his fourth solo album, his first in 14 years, the acoustic Under the Skin. On Wednesday, he visits the Celebrity Theatre for only his second solo appearance in the Valley. We recently spoke with the singer, 57, about his new album and tour.

Question: How did Under the Skin come about?

Answer: I had worked on a solo album with Mick Fleetwood in the '90s, and it got shelved to do the Fleetwood Mac live album (The Mask) and tour, and when I finished it somehow it got diverted into the last Fleetwood Mac studio album (Say You Will). In the meantime, I'd done enough live performances to realize that some of the songs I'd transformed from ensemble to solo pieces - Go Insane, Big Love - were so effective onstage. It got me thinking about getting back to my earliest musical approaches, even before I joined the band. It became an interesting idea for me to try.

Q: It has an unusual sound; it seems like a collection of demos yet is almost as produced as Fleetwood Mac's Tusk.

A: There is not a lot going on, but once you put a production value on it, it goes into an ethereal place. If you put that dense, lush idea over a vocal track with full-on bass and drums, it would probably get a little over the top, but in this setting it opened up the possibility for atmosphere in a way I'd never had before.

Q: What's up next?

A: Everyone seems to be picking up on this album, so we'll be touring for it as long as I can. My MO is to take a long time between records, but I've got another set of tunes ready and I'm going to work on a more normal solo album, I think that's what the record company wanted initially. But they have been so supportive of my solo career they've pretty much said, "If Fleetwood Mac comes knocking to make another album, let them knock and finish doing what you want to do."

Q: So what is a "normal" Lindsey Buckingham album?

A: (Laughs) Good question. I'm not sure, but it would have electric guitar, bass and drums on it. More rock and roll, more solos, that would probably satisfy Warner Bros. But when you reach my age you don't really worry about what is going to grease the machine, you just have to follow your heart and play what you're interested in.

Q: How are you translating Under the Skin onstage?

A: I have a three-piece band, one gentleman on guitar, another who doubles on bass and keyboards and a third who handles percussion. It was a bit of a challenge to put together a set that would resonate with the album but would still cover enough material to keep it exciting and give the fans everything they wanted to hear.

Q: Was it difficult arranging some of your more grandiose Mac songs, like I'm So Afraid, into this intimate setting?

A: I think it's all about the line you follow from Point A to Point B. We build throughout the show and wait until the end to pounce on the audience with the intense songs. It all hangs together very nicely.

Q: So this is quite different from your Out of the Cradle tour in 1992?

A: Oh yeah. That was the Busby Berkeley of rock concerts!

Q: You had about a half-dozen guitarists with you. It was pretty overwhelming.

A: I think the audience was pretty overwhelming, too. They wouldn't stop talking. Didn't I have to tell them to shut up at one point?

Q: There was definitely some tension there.

A: Well, when you have half the people talking over your set you have to wonder, "Why did they bother to come?" But that was then.

Q: You've showed up at Stevie Nicks concerts in the Valley. Is there any chance she'll show up at your show?

A: I would think there's every chance she will (laughs).