Fleetwood Mac US Airways Center See the full slideshow of the concert May 30, 2013
It would be challenging, at best, to attempt to write an objective concert review about a band that your love for borders on obsession, so I'm not going to try.
Fleetwood Mac's show at US Airways Arena Thursday night, was, well, it was fine. It was what one could reasonably expect from a band at this stage in its career, a career that began well over 40 years ago. They played the familiar hits, minus the Christine McVie (who stopped touring with the band in 1998) selections, which meant no "Say You Love Me," no "Over My Head," no "You Make Loving Fun," no "Songbird," no "Think About," no "Little Lies."
Her noticeable absence left the band less like the Fleetwood Mac that we all know and love, and more like the Lindsey Buckingham/Stevie Nicks show, with John McVie and Mick Fleetwood serving as a backing band. Much of the banter centered around the (to say the least) well-documented drama between former lovers Buckingham and Nicks. We all know the story.
The actual members of Fleetwood Mac were the minority on stage. A second guitarist, a keyboardist, two female backing vocalists, and a second drummer were curiously hidden behind Buckingham's wall of amplifiers and augmented the band as they lumbered through opener "Second Hand News," and on through "The Chain" and "Dreams."
And then something beautiful happened. Buckingham mentioned that they had been recording new material, some of which appears on their new EP, the awkwardly titled Extended Play and introduced one of those selections, the excellent "Sad Angel." I cannot, off the top of my head, think of any other band that has been around as long as they have that has issued a song so fantastic. I'm serious. It's really good. The entire band, Mick Fleetwood especially, seemed to light up with the opportunity to play great new material.
The band followed up with Nick's witchy crowd pleaser "Rhiannon," and though her voice has changed over the years, she still has "it." There is something very Billie Holiday about her, although her range in her 60s far exceeds Holidays at 20. Her youthful range has been replaced by a depth that can only come from a lifetime of being Stevie Nicks.
After "Rhiannon," Nicks left the stage, leaving Buckingham to talk about the creative versus commercial challenge they faced after the blockbuster Rumours album, and the follow up, Tusk -- a sprawling and uneven double album that has become the stuff of legend, and a musicians' favorite (see notes below.)
Nicks returned to join the band for "Not That Funny," "Tusk," and "Sister of the Moon," which could've been "Rhiannon 2" and is a song that, on record, seemed underdeveloped, likely due to Buckingham's lack of interest in working closely with Nicks at that point in their relationship. They don't make that mistake live. It's a moody, spooky, epic live, one for which Nicks can play up the twirling White Witch persona to the hilt. The lovely "Sara" closed out the Tusk portion of the show, which for me, at least, was the highlight of the evening.
Buckingham was left alone on the stage for his frantic "Big Love," Nicks then returned for her classic reflective weeper "Landslide," then joined Buckingham for his sweet and sour "Never Going Back Again," another new one -- actually a just-recorded version of a pre-Mac Buckingham-Nicks demo called "Without You." This acoustic portion of the show ended with Buckingham and Nicks in a touching embrace.
A small drum kit was set up for the Fleetwood for a mellow version of the fantastic "Gypsy" and the neurotic rave-up "Eyes of the World," both from the underrated Mirage LP. Another Nicks showcase, the intense "Gold Dust Woman," and Buckingham's equally frightening "I'm So Afraid" followed.
I'm not sure what made the band decide to include Nicks' solo hit "Stand Back" in the set; if it were up to me (and it wasn't) I would've picked "Edge of Seventeen" off Nicks' solo debut, Belladonna -- and if they're doing solo material, why not Buckinghams solo classic "Trouble," or the fantastic "Don't Let Me Down Again" from the pre-Mac Buckingham Nicks?
The familiar opening chords from "Go Your Own Way" sent the audience into near hysterics, and with that the band said their farewells.
But wait....Yes! Encore... "World Turning," as usual, turned into one of those things that I have never heard anyone say that they actually like, the drum solo. Mind you: I frickin' LOVE Mick Fleetwood. But, ugh, drum solos. The obligatory "Don't Stop" followed, to the audiences delight, and with that, the band cleared the stage before, due to popular demand, returning once more for Stevie's tear-jerker "Silver Springs" and, finally, "Say Goodbye" from the 2003 (mostly) post-Christine McVie album Say You Will.
Looking over set lists and reviews from other stops on this tour reveals the same exact nightly set list and same nightly banter. Perhaps that's to be expected in this day and age, but don't we always want to believe that we are special and every show is unique?
All in all, I doubt there was anyone in the audience who left feeling slighted, other than the one holdout who thought there was a chance of them busting out Peter Green's "Oh, Well."
The band was indeed the "Big Machine" that Lindsey frequently refers to them as, and with any machine that big, nothing was left to chance, which would explain the teleprompter in front of Stevie.
For me, one of the great joys of the show was seeing, and hearing, John McVie and Mick Fleetwood play together, as they have for almost 50 years now, and as seamlessly as ever. One cannot say enough about their chemistry and history. Oh, the places they've been!
And despite the hair-splitting, it was a great joy to go with them last night.
Set List 1. Second Hand News 2. The Chain 3. Dreams 4. Sad Angel 5. Rhiannon 6. Not That Funny 7. Tusk 8. Sisters of the Moon 9. Sara 10. Big Love 11. Landslide 12. Never Going Back Again 13. Without You 14. Gypsy 15. Eyes of the World 16. Gold Dust Woman 17. I'm So Afraid 18. Stand Back 19. Go Your Own Way 20. World Turning (encore) 21. Don't Stop (encore) 22. Silver Springs (encore) 23. Say Goodbye (encore)
Critics Notebook: Last Night: Fleetwood Mac at US Airways Center (See the full slideshow of the concert) Better Than: The lousy Just Tell Me That You Want Me Fleetwood Mac tribute album that came out a few months ago. Most of that crap was just awful. Personal Bias: Um, a bit. I must confess that I own numerous bootlegs recordings, VHS tapes, a laserdisc, a T-shirt, two belt buckles, and, yes, I also have a Fleetwood Mac cover band that exclusively plays material from Tusk. I frickin' love Fleetwood Mac. Seriously.
Further Listening: I highly suggest that you revisit the Mirage album, it's really good. And the new track "Sad Angel," I swear to God, it's really good.