Performing hit songs from his band Fleetwood Mac, along with tunes from his latest solo album, Lindsey Buckingham kicked off Tuesday night what is expected to be a semi-regular series of concerts at the historic Fremont theater in downtown San Luis Obispo.
The theater was mostly full for the show, which local club SLO Brewing Co. put on with Numbskull Productions.
While the Fremont has hosted concerts before — Los Lobos, Toots and the Maytals, Steel Pulse and John Hiatt — the last concert staged there was a series of shows put on by progressive rockers Yes in 1996.
Todd Newman, co-owner of SLO Brewing Co., has been negotiating with King Ventures, which owns the Fremont with developer Rob Rossi, for a couple of years about hosting concerts there.
“The dialogue between Todd and I has been going on for quite a while,” said J.G. King, of King Ventures. “And it didn’t really pick up any steam until the last six months. I think when Todd saw he had a chance for somebody like Lindsey, he started calling me a little more often.”
The art deco Fremont is San Luis Obispo’s oldest movie theater. Its opening gala in 1942 was attended by several celebrities, including actor Jackie Cooper, boxer Max Baer and comedy duo Laurel and Hardy. That history, plus the theater’s charm, will appeal to artists, Newman said.
“It’s just an iconic piece of real estate in downtown San Luis Obispo,” Newman said.
Known for its neon sign and ceiling mural, the theater can seat about 850 people for concerts. That’s bigger than SLO Brew’s club on Garden Street, but more intimate than a venue such as the Performing Arts Center at Cal Poly.
While concerts at the Fremont have been rare, Yes — reuniting its classic lineup for the first time in 15 years — memorably recorded songs for two live albums during three shows that attracted fans from around the world.
“Their Yes fan club was so involved, they were flying over here to see the shows,” said King, who attended the shows himself.
The Movie Experience rents the theater to screen current films, but the lease allows the Fremont owners a few days a year to use it for other purposes, such as the San Luis Obispo International Film Festival.
For future concerts, King said, he will work with Newman to determine which SLO Brew acts might best work for the Fremont.
“If we did two to four shows a year, that would be great,” said King, whose father, John, bought the Fremont with Rossi. “We think the shows at the Fremont will get a pretty good following.”
For their first show, Newman said, they had hoped to bring in a significant act.
“Lindsey Buckingham — Fleetwood Mac, the historic Fremont — that seemed like a perfect fit,” he said.
Performing a one-man, acoustic show, Buckingham promoted his latest album, “Seeds We Sow.” But the guitarist also performed songs from his mega-band Fleetwood Mac such as “Big Love,” “Bleed to Love Her,” “Never Going Back Again” and “Go Your Own Way.”