Monday, April 15, 2013

Rumours of True Harmony Elevate Fleetwood Mac (or at least my enjoyment) -- Chicago Concert Review

Concert Review

Fleetwood Mac
United Center, Chicago
April 13, 2013

It could be easy, I suppose, to be cynical about yet another Fleetwood Mac tour, especially as they are again not supporting a new album (though they promised an EP soon).

I don't think one could be blamed for suspecting that Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham simply appreciate the much greater income and ego boost sold-out arenas give them over their less appreciated solo outings. Or that every few years Mick Fleetwood and John McVie need to rake in more cash to pay for their butlers and gardeners.

Whether or not any or all of the above is true, I am not enough of a purist--I will continue to pay to hear great bands play great songs regardless of their reasons, so long as I don't feel they are cheating me--not to have attended Fleetwood Mac shows in 2003, 2009 and again on Saturday night at the United Center. (I didn't see the initial, 1997 reunion tour of the classic lineup but I did watch The Dance televised performance and purchased the live album of the same name).

I love enough of the band's best material--especially from 1975's Fleetwood Mac, 1979's Tusk and especially 1977's Rumours--and feel that Buckingham and Nicks, in particular, showcase enough professional pride and integrity every time they step on stage that I largely enjoyed the previous Fleetwood Mac shows I've seen.

Until Lindsey and Stevie begin to sound like Bob Dylan and Tom Waits I could happily hear them sing songs like "Dreams," "Rhiannon," "The Chain," "Landslide," "Tusk," "Don't Stop" and "Go Your Own Way" until the end of time.

But while I can't recall exact particulars of past shows, my perception was that the acrimony that helped fuel the brilliance of Rumours--an album famously made in the aftermath of Lindsey and Stevie's romantic split, the divorce of John & Christine McVie and Mick Fleetwood's own divorce proceedings--wasn't entirely a thing in the past. (Although Christine participated in the 1997 reunion, she has not been on any of the tours of the new millennium, as the other four members have .)

There were enough times when Lindsey and Stevie seemed to seethe at each other--whether on stage or in the press--that although their inherent love was apparent, so too was plenty of unfinished business.

Given that this is how Fleetwood Mac existed, and even flourished, on Rumours and over the subsequent 10 years of the "classic lineup," I can't really say that the past shows I saw artistically suffered for it. In fact, the soap opera revolving around rock's greatest doomed romance has always been part of what has made Fleetwood Mac so riveting.

And the resulting "Can you top this?" creative rivalry between the former lovers has not only generated many classic songs, but helped the latter-day live shows bristle with a storied sense of tension.

Well, who knows what really happens in the dressing room and on the road between shows, but at the UC it looked to me like Lindsey and Stevie have buried the hatchet to a greater extent than I recall previously perceiving.

Sure, they still faced off during "Go Your Own Way" (video below) and on Stevie's originally-scrapped-from-Rumours rebuttal, "Silver Springs," but with tender takes on "Landslide," a rediscovered lost Buckingham Nicks song, "Without You"--which Stevie called the nicest song she'd ever written about Lindsey--and the show closing "Say Goodbye", which Lindsay said he wrote as a song of closure, it was nice to sense that detente, this time, wasn't merely a mercenary measure.

Yet, even if true, did this really make Fleetwood Mac's performance better?

That's debatable. I missed the great "Monday Morning," which the band used as an opener on the 2009 tour and my friend Paolo missed the harmonies Christine McVie had brought to the recordings. He also was a bit more troubled than I by the tenor of Stevie's singing voice on the edge of 65.

But while noting that our seats in the front row of the 3rd deck meant a glass barrier muffled the sound a bit, I was every bit as pleased with what Fleetwood Mac delivered as I was with Bob Seger the previous Saturday (who I likewise awarded @@@@1/2).

I thought the band both chose their material and paced their set well. Given that the Mac is celebrating the 35th Anniversary of Rumours--albeit a year late--seven songs were included from it, one of the best-selling albums of all-time. (See the full Fleetwood Mac United Center setlist on

But the group played a new song--"Sad Angel"--that sounded strong, and I believe "Eyes of the World" was another new one (Note: Commenters have corrected me; the latter is from Mirage). They showcased the under appreciated Tusk album with a quartet of songs--"Not That Funny," "Tusk," "Sisters of the Moon" and "Sara"--while Buckingham's typically terrific guitar playing was most demonstrably sublime on "Big Love" and "I'm So Afraid."

The animated Mick Fleetwood remains a powerhouse drummer, and though the steady as a statue John McVie doesn't look like he deserves a quarter of the box office take, he has been holding down the band's rhythm section since 1967. (Two extra musicians and two backup singers also were on-stage.)

A shout out to recently passed early band members--particularly Bob Welch--seemed in order, but was never forthcoming, despite a number of monologues from Lindsey and Stevie.

Nonetheless, this was a show that reminded me that Fleetwood Mac has been a really good band for a really long time, with the twosome who took them to another level--Buckingham and Nicks--literally front and center.

And seemingly quite happy to be there. Together.

Here's a clip of "Go Your Own Way," which I and everyone else lustily sang along with. Posted to YouTube by trboogaard.


Anonymous said...

Eyes Of The World is off of are ill informed. Right now I would like to call you an idiot~
Stevie and Lindsey played well together for previous concerts as well.
They are fabulous, and you need to do your homework, or not talk about what you don't know.

Anonymous said...

Actually, Eyes are off of Mirage.

Anonymous said...

Yes, "Eyes of the World" is from Mirage, and it was quite interesting that Lindsey started with a slow building intro containing strains of Pachelbel's Canon, which if you listen closely to the studio version and demos, was a base/influence on the music.

Seth Arkin said...

Thank you for correcting me on the origins of "Eyes of the World." In introducing "Sad Angel," Lindsey said they'd be playing two new songs. The old-but-new-again "Without You" seems to be the only other one he could have meant, unless I'm wrong again.