Monday, March 09, 2009

FLEETWOOD MAC REVIVES A TIRED ROCK FAN


A reporter finds a recent Fleetwood Mac concert to be much more tame -- and enjoyable -- than the rock shows of the '70s

By KEVIN HELLIKER
WSJ.Com

CHICAGO: Back in the 1970s, a family friend in the arena business gave me passes to nearly every rock concert in Kansas City, making me the envy of my teenaged peers -- until the moment arrived when I couldn't take it anymore. Arrogant performers and their out-of-control worshipers had turned even the free-of-charge concert into punishment. 

But recently my wife, not knowing about this boycott, presented me with two tickets to the Fleetwood Mac concert Thursday night in Chicago, near the start of the group's multi-city tour. Having frowned at the gift, I owe her an apology.

The experience was sprinkled with Rip-Van-Winkle moments, even before the band appeared. When did everybody get so old? And so courteous? At a Styx concert in the '70s, a long-haired dude, impatient in the restroom line, took a swing at me for refusing to use the sink as a urinal. But in the crowded restroom Thursday night I heard only, "Excuse me."

When the band appeared -- very nearly on schedule -- the crowd did not go wild, at least by '70s standards, and that worried me, especially in light of a few empty seats in the upper reaches of the Allstate Arena. Back in the '70s I'd heard Stephen Stills, clearly furious about having filled only half the hall, spew contempt toward those of us who had bothered coming. Those temperamental artists.

But from the first to last moments of a two-hour set, the four remaining members of Fleetwood Mac -- Stevie Nicks, Lindsey Buckingham, Mick Fleetwood and John McVie -- expressed what appeared to be heartfelt gratitude toward the sizeable audience they'd drawn. And they gave the crowd what it wanted: a complete dose of nostalgia, from "Rhiannon" and "Landslide" and "Gold Dust Woman" to "World Turning" and "The Chain" and "You Can Go Your Own Way."

I'm no music critic, but the band members looked and sounded great. Mr. Buckingham, always a masterful and eccentric guitarist, played the electric without a pick, sharper and faster than ever. And at age 60, Ms. Nicks showed once again that adding shawls and top hats to her long-dress-and-gloves attire can be more provocative than baring flesh a la Madonna. 

After two encores, Mr. Fleetwood bent his tall frame into a bow and said, "We are so blessed that you came."

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