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Fleetwood Mac

Wednesday 27th May 2015

O2 Arena, London

Maybe Fleetwood Mac will still be doing what they do 20 years from now. It wouldn’t surprise me. They lived through peak self-destruction, through the decades when bands were losing members left and right to the side effects of 20th century music culture, lived through the years when fame sounded a lot like a death knell. They endured more fractures in public than many people have to deal with in private. But Fleetwood Mac were lucky. They made it out. They know it, too, and they couldn’t be more grateful. Playing London on the 82nd night of their ‘On with the Show’ tour and the first night of the UK and European leg, the band returned to the stage after a 5-6 week hiatus. This is Fleetwood Mac’s first tour with Christine McVie since she quit the band in 1998 through a fear of flying and the need to restore an ancient house in Kent. She apparently got bored having missed the rush of onstage performance, and the camaraderie of touring with her band-mates officially returning in January, and her presence lent the concert the feel of a warm, comfortable family reunion with the most bohemian aunts and uncles you’ve got. As Stevie Nicks remarked "We've got our girl back" and they most certainly feel complete again. The constant ovations she received all night long proved the fans are more than a little pleased she's back...

Like folks seeing their extended family for the first time in years, Fleetwood Mac tell stories. Stevie Nicks recalled the first time she stood on the painted floor of the Velvet Underground, a clothing store in San Francisco where Janis Joplin was known to shop for her stage looks. She talked about seeing her future as a musician there and urged everyone present to stick to their dreams, a platitude, maybe, but one that took flight coming from your hippie aunt Stevie Nicks. Fleetwood Mac keep it simple and joyful in concert. Mick Fleetwood has his monogrammed gold drum kit, and Nicks has her several changes of goth nymph looks, but they don’t act like rock stars. They played like they loved the songs more than anyone else in the room, and maybe they did. They spoke to the audience as though they were genuinely touched by our outpourings of applause. I think they were. They kicked off the night with the first thuds of Fleetwood’s bass drum and John McVie’s iconic running bass-line on ‘The Chain’, a ‘Rumours’ cut with a bass line big enough to knock you off your feet if you’re not careful and still strummed and hummed by F1 fans everywhere. They jumped right into the heart of what’s made them so vital to pop music as we understand it now. Fleetwood Mac deal in poles: their songs are heavy and quick, rousing and sad, massive and massively vulnerable, all in one. Live, they take their time, continuing with '’You Make Loving Fun’ and ‘Dreams’, much to the delight of the 20,000-strong crowd as the band’s three voices were back in sync. Christine McVie’s lovely mumsy alto is still the only known antidote to Nicks’ magnificent mystical foghorn. In between two cuts from ‘Tusk’, Lindsey Buckingham took a moment just to share his thoughts with us as they came to him. “We are a band that, I think it’s safe to say, has seen its share of ups and downs,” he said. “What makes us what we are, I think, is that we have continued to grow and evolve and to prevail through the good and the bad. You're not kidding mate!!!

‘Rumours’ (45 million copies and counting) was, as only right and proper, at the heart of this reunion. It still casts a hell of a spell even if no one – not even the three graces on backing vocalists – had the whoomph to hit the high harmonic line in ‘Second Hand News’. Not that oldies don’t have to be carbon copies. In the acoustic interlude, Buckingham led a clever if self-indulgent reinterpretation of ‘Never Going Down Again, full of slow slide vocals and delayed entrances Such is the giant shadow cast by ‘Rumours’ that Buckingham wasn’t entirely disingenuous to mention an album called ‘Tango in the Night’ and played ‘Big Love’, full of inchoate back-to-the-woods all-American yowls and intricate finger-picking guitar work and was prefaced by his now usual blurb about what the song meant then and means now. There are two Buckingham’s, the shaman and the showman. When he wasn’t sharing the fluff in his navel, he spent the night duck-walking in skinny jeans, yelping like a cowboy between some songs and stomping around like a toddler throwing a tantrum, but playing the guitar as angrily and as manically and brilliantly as ever. He reached these dramatic heights on the heavy (by Mac standards) ‘I'm So Afraid’, which saw him prowling the stage like a man possessed before unleashing a gonzo solo right out of the Ultimate Guitar Hero Playbook. On ‘Go Your Own Way’ he was sometimes letting out primal roars instead of words, played an epic guitar solo and even bent over to the front row, allowing fingers to reach up from the pit to play on his fretboard at the hit single's conclusion.

Introducing the heartfelt and classic sentimental song 'Landslide', featuring Nicks’s lovely lyrics about ageing which are now truer than ever, she paid tribute to Adele, saying, “She is a spectacular songwriter (?)”, and I told her “You're gonna be me in 40 years. You're gonna be still up there on stage doing this because of your songs, it's what will take you all that way”. We will see! At the song’s end, she wiped a finger across Buckingham’s sopping brow. There was that much love in the room!! The principal emotion for yours truly during the nearly two and half-hour performance was the joy of having keyboardist Christine McVie back in this group... She brought high harmonies and several songs, including '’Little Lies’, ‘Everywhere’ and the closing ‘Songbird’, back into the repertoire. One would never know the striking 71-year old had been away for nearly two decades. Nicks hasn’t sounded this good since the early 90’s and still twirls away in splendid black lace with her alluring voice on her songs such as ‘Rhiannon’ and the still mesmeric and haunting ‘Gold Dust Woman’ (complete with gold shawl). The silent John McVie still holds it all together with his solid booming bass-lines. In short, it’s all still magical and according to Buckingham "ready for the next chapter.’”

And then there is Mick... Drum solos can sometimes seem like an endurance test for a rock audience. It’s a rare joy to witness one wherein the drummer seems to experience as much giddy delight as Mick Fleetwood did. Still doing his Animal from the Muppets impression as well as ever, he whooped and howled, coaxing the crowd in call-and-response shouts to manic pseudo gibberish while demonstrating his singular rhythmic sensibility. This turned out to be far more entertaining than what you'd expect from an old guy hollering and hitting things. "Shit, this is a huge, massive place," he remarked towards the end. Talking of chattering, one could argue that there was a bit too much nattering with closing speeches by Nicks and Buckingham and not enough playing but I don't care about that. As far as this reviewer goes, it was an incredible gig, one of the best I have seen for a while. It was a set list of hits so great that the band can be excused if that ‘prolific new chapter’ never comes. After all, Fleetwood Mac already created a story for the ages. They should never break the chain!!

The Chain
You Make Loving Fun
Second Hand News
I Know I’m Not Wrong
Sisters of the Moon
Say You Love Me
Big Love
Never Going Back Again
Over My Head
Little Lies
Gold Dust Woman
I’m So Afraid
Go Your Own Way

First Encore
World Turning
Don’t Stop
Silver Springs

Second Encore

Wrinkly The Silver

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