In June, Christine McVie and Lindsey Buckingham, two members of the respected rock band Fleetwood Mac, made a surprise move by releasing their first studio album as a duo. Shortly thereafter the two began a nationwide summer tour, bringing them to Huntington Bank Pavilion at Northerly Island on Monday night.

After a brief standing ovation from the three-quarters-full venue, they began with a quieted acoustic cover of Buckingham’s solo hit “Trouble,” featuring just the two of them on stage in their familiar places, Buckingham wielding his guitar and McVie behind the keys. Yet it was the second song in their 90-minute set that was most telling, a “cover” of Fleetwood Mac’s “Wish You Were Here” that summed up the general sentiment of the night: This just doesn’t feel right without Mick Fleetwood, Stevie Nicks and John McVie.

Though Buckingham and McVie worked through a good chunk of songs from their new self-titled debut, they also filled the set list with Fleetwood Mac classics, a rather confusing move considering the iconic band is still active and planning a worldwide tour for 2018.

“Tusk” was a stellar instrumental opus that at times sounded like a New Orleans second line, thanks to Buckingham’s sharp-as-ever guitar work and to the diligent backing band that included former Nicks hired gun Jimmy Paxon, as well as Buckingham’s solo guitarist Neale Haywood, bassist Federico Pol and keyboard player Brett Tuggle. But McVie struggled to hit all the notes in “You Make Loving Fun” and the band egregiously skipped over replacing Nicks’ important choral contributions in “Little Lies” in a clear indication that the sum of Fleetwood Mac is much bigger than its parts.

Early on in the set, Buckingham relayed the story of how the project came to be. “We didn’t plan on this,” he admitted, but after McVie said she wanted back in Fleetwood Mac after a 15-year absence she started sending Buckingham bits and pieces of song material. The two decided to try them out in the studio, “and one thing led to another,” said Buckingham, calling their chemistry “better than ever.”

On a good chunk of their new material performed this night, that realization was quite evident. The catchy songwriting and carefree harmonization on “Sleeping Around the Corner” was the classic McVie-Buckingham formula. The night’s standout “Too Far Gone,” was a bluesy riff that fit McVie’s husky vocals perfectly and easily had one of the best drum solo fills of the past couple of decades. But tracks like “Feel About You” and “Red Sun” were lyrical shortcomings, and the former’s calypso sound was a bit too influenced by the Talking Heads. The band played two more tracks in the encore (after McVie pulled a classic faux pas, thanking “Boston” for the night before realizing her mistake); both were ballads that felt almost complete but could have benefited from the layering that has become a Fleetwood Mac standard.

Ironically, everyone in the band but Nicks contributed to the “Buckingham/McVie” album, making any casual listener wonder if this could be the direction Fleetwood Mac might follow if they ever do release a new album (their last came out in 2003 but they have hinted they may be saying adieu after next year). If anything, this night at least renewed some hope.

Selena Fragassi is a local freelance writer.

Set List:
Trouble (Lindsey Buckingham solo song)
Wish You Were Here (Fleetwood Mac cover)
Never Going Back Again (Fleetwood Mac cover)
Shut Us Down (Lindsey Buckingham solo song)
Sleeping Around the Corner
Feel About You
In My World
Too Far Gone
Hold Me (Fleetwood Mac cover)
Little Lies (Fleetwood Mac cover)
Tusk (Fleetwood Mac cover)
Love Is Here to Stay
Red Sun
You Make Loving Fun (Fleetwood Mac cover)
I’m So Afraid (Fleetwood Mac cover)
Go Your Own Way (Fleetwood Mac cover)
Everywhere (Fleetwood Mac cover)
Lay Down for Free
Game of Pretend