Fans lined up well before the gates opened at the Vina Robles Amphitheater as a beautiful fall sunset painted the sky in myriad colors, Sunday, October 15th in Paso Robles. Arguably the best live music venue in California, the new amphitheater holds about 3000 people. There isn’t a bad seat in the house with a lawn section in the back, nearly as popular with patrons as front row tickets. In fact, as music fans funneled in early to the Lindsey Buckingham and Christine McVie concert, those holding general admission lawn tickets were offered free upgrades closer to the stage. But many preferred to stay in the back to lounge on blankets, enjoying the many offerings from the food and beverage bars.
The venue features a full wine bar where delicious local wine can be purchased by the glass or the bottle. The is also a beer bar with local brews on tap, a coffee bar, a full-service bar, snack bar with organic hamburgers, and wood burning pizza oven. The venue also features large areas of picnic tables and benches so patrons can lounge about the site at their leisure.
Most everyone was arriving for the classic rock show, one of the last concerts of the season, in high spirits. There was considerable camaraderie among the crowd with that relaxed small town feeling permeating the venue infecting both employees and patrons with beaming smiles. The security apologized for the extensive screening process introduced after the recent concert disaster in Las Vegas. But fans thanked the those screening them for keeping them safe time and again as they entered the venue.
The show began at twilight with a 30 minute set by Malibu-based band Wilderado. The four-piece band played some enjoyable tunes marked by pleasant harmonies and a classic rock feel in the vein of The Eagles. But it was the classic rock duo of Lindsey Buckingham and Christine McVie that the crowd was patiently waiting to see. The Fleetwood Mac veterans arrived on stage 15 minutes ahead of their scheduled 9 PM set time and proceeded to play a two hour set of 19 songs both from their new album and from the extensive Fleetwood Mac songbook. The duo opened their show with a three-song acoustic set without their band. McVie spent most of the night behind her keyboards but came out later in the evening to sing lead. The animated Buckingham began the night seated with an acoustic guitar, but had pranced about nearly every inch of the stage playing innovative guitar solos by the end of the night. The sound system hung high onto the top of the venue exploded to life with nearly perfect sound all throughout the place. The pair opened with Trouble, a song from Buckingham’s first solo album released in 1982, Law and Order. The crowd leaped to their feet for the next tune, Never Going Back Again, from Fleetwood Mac’s biggest hit album Rumors. That was followed by a lesser-known Fleetwood Mac song, Wish You Were Here, from the 1982 album Mirage, which had never been played live by the band before this year.
The four-man band then emerged to join Buckingham and McVie for a blistering version of Shut us Down from Buckingham’s 2006 solo album Under The Skin. The rest of the evening featured songs from Buckingham and McVie’s self-titled new album, interspersed with Fleetwood Mac classics. The backing band of veteran musicians featured, Neale Heywood on guitars and background vocals, Brett Tuggle on Keyboards, Guitars and background vocals, Frederico Pol on bass guitar and background vocals, and explosive drummer, Jimmy Paxson.
Buckingham did most of the talking during the evening between songs, explaining how the new album and the tour of the duo had come to fruition. “The first surprise happened a few years back, Christine had taken leave of the band Fleetwood Mac for… how long?”
“It was a long time, 15 years,” McVie answered, in one of the few times that McVie chatted with the crowd. “And the second surprise was that as a byproduct of returning to Fleetwood Mac, she began getting back into her creative process and sending me bits of song ideas across the pond from London over to Los Angeles. Of course, me being me, I did what I wanted with them."
The new songs blended perfectly with the Fleetwood Mac classics, and at times it was hard to tell if the band was playing something off the new album or a more obscure Fleetwood Mac song like the aforementioned, Wish You Were Here. But, of course, the crowd was elated to hear the most well-known Fleetwood Mac hits like the thunderous Tusk, with McVie on accordion or the classic jam rock of Go Your Own Way, with Buckingham’s searing guitar solos.
The show ended near 11 pm with a three-song encore also featuring a mix of Fleetwood Mac and new songs. It was a nearly perfect evening, a bottle of Pinot Noir, slice of gourmet pizza and two hours of incredible music under the stars and crisp, clean air of the Vina Robles Amphitheater.
The final concert of the season features Morrissey on November 5th.