Fleetwood Mac still rockin' after all these years
Monday, March 02, 2009
Back in the '70s when you were listening to "Rhiannon" and "Gypsy," you may have given a passing thought to the concept of Stevie Nicks at 60.
Now we're at the point where we don't have to imagine anymore.
We saw her last night at the Mellon Arena on the opening show of the Unleashed tour, and we can testify that she's still the golden haired diva, still mysterious, still beguiling, still beautiful as she sings those haunting, heartbreaking love songs.
Her partner in crime since they were teenagers, Lindsey Buckingham, is still on the brink of 60, at 59, and he's, well, he's going to be an intense dude up until the day he dies.
The former lovers came out holding hands and then went off to their positions to dazzle with the promised greatest hits show, plus some surprises from the back catalogue.
Buckingham made early mention of the band's "complex and convoluted emotional history," saying that every time they come back together "it's always different." He added that they "had a ball" during their days of rehearsal at the arena, and the evidence was on stage.
A nod to their fresh start was "Monday Morning," an unexpected opener, as it was never a staple of the "Say You Will" tour five years ago. It wasn't until the second song, "The Chain," that we got that first taste of the magical Buckingham-Nicks harmonies, two voices that born for each other.
Nicks always had an unusual voice, husky yet delicate, strong yet vulnerable. Early in the set, like on "Dreams," she clung more to the lower register, backing away from the mike on the high notes. As the set picked up energy, so did she, pouring emotion into "Sara" and "Landslide," with that line "I'm getting older, too." On "Gold Dust Woman," she unleashed a long, gorgeous wail, before turning her back to the crowd and spreading her golden shawl like wings -- dragon-lady wings -- as the song slowly faded.
Buckingham is a pure live wire, and people who have never seen Fleetwood Mac might not know that if he hadn't ended up in this co-ed pop band, his name might be thrown around with guitar heroes like Neil Young and Eric Clapton. Buckingham can rip in numerous ways, from the frantic acoustic fingerpicking on "Big Love" to the nitro shredding on "I'm Afraid," which, contrary to the image of the 50-something ballad-loving Fleetwood Mac fan, drew the biggest roar of the night.
With Nicks offstage to change shawls, or something, Mac reverted back to its early blues-rock form for "Oh Well," with Buckingham excitedly playing Peter Green's scorching riff. You need a good drummer for all of this and at 61, Mick Fleetwood is still beating the hell out of the skins and hasn't lost any of his pace. John McVie blends into the background with the two side musicians and three backup singers, but manages to keep up with the fiery Fleetwood and Buckingham, even on "Tusk," which had the USC marching band channeled through the keyboard player.
They churned like a powerful New Wave machine on "Stand Back," with Nicks delivering one her most edgy vocals. Buckingham closed the set by first playing the note-perfect solo on "Go Your Own Way" before beating the guitar with his fists.
They ended the show with the Clinton-Gore theme song "Don't Stop," and leaving the arena, fans had plenty of reason to be glad that Fleetwood Mac takes that title at its word.