By Sarah Rodman
All iconic rock records begin life as the dreaded "new stuff" fans don't want to hear.
Stevie Nicks vividly remembers a time when Fleetwood Mac fans weren't interested in the songs from the landmark album "Rumours." Granted, it didn't take long for the 1977 release to become a multiplatinum monster, but there was definitely an initial resistance to the charms of "Gold Dust Woman."
"The audience is always going to be like, 'We need to hear the songs we came here to hear,' " says the 60-year-old singer-songwriter. And at the start of the "Rumours" tour, the songs they came to hear were hits like "Rhiannon" and "Say You Love Me" from Fleetwood Mac's eponymous 1975 album, the first to feature Nicks and her then boyfriend, singer-songwriter-guitarist Lindsey Buckingham.
As the title of the current road show makes clear, Fleetwood Mac's "Unleashed: Hits Tour 2009," which comes to the TD Banknorth Garden on Wednesday, will not feature any new stuff. "We've had incredibly good luck with successful radio songs, so if you start with that and make a list, it's not a short list," says Buckingham, 59.
But this is no farewell jaunt for the band, which also features the namesake rhythm section of drummer Mick Fleetwood, 61, and bassist John McVie, 63. (Singer-songwriter-keyboardist Christine McVie retired from the group in 1998 but performed on the 2003 album, "Say You Will.") In separate back-to-back interviews, we talked to Buckingham and Nicks about the past, present, and future, and they made it clear that the British-American band that has withstood more than a half-dozen permutations will continue to make new music for the masses to disregard - at least at first.
Singing McVie's praises
This tour is the group's second go-round without McVie. The absence of her harmonies and keyboards was definitely felt on the "Say You Will" tour, as were her songwriting contributions, including the hits "Say You Love Me," "Over My Head," "Hold Me," "Everywhere," and "Little Lies." This time out, the group has decided to add some of her tunes to the set list.
Buckingham: "I think she would want us to do that. I think she's going to be flattered as well."
Nicks: "She's delighted. Chris is the greatest, she's not selfish and she's not conceited. She's just a wonderful, wonderful girl. She doesn't like to fly and you just have to. She was having panic attacks and she didn't tell us, so we were all very surprised when she said 'I can't do this' because we never knew she was having a hard time."
The Stevie/Lindsey dynamic
McVie's absence was also felt on a personal level, especially by Nicks, who felt adrift as the band's gender balance shifted. Buckingham was having a blast, however, digging into his songs and guitar playing. Onstage in Worcester in 2003, the former lovers could be seen shooting intense glares at each other.
Buckingham: "When we got off the road in 2004 with Fleetwood Mac, I know Stevie was not very happy with me. I think she maybe wasn't that comfortable onstage in a situation where, without Christine, I had half the material to do and I was just up there being a guy. I think her sense of herself, the context kind of got blurred for her without the female compadre. I had a great time; she didn't."
Nicks: "It went from being a band with two powerful women and a bunch of guys to a bunch of guys with one powerful woman. And Christine really was the powerhouse anyway, she really was the leader of the pack, our Mother Earth. So without Chris it definitely changed the dynamic. And I was lonely because I was obviously so used to having her there since 1975."
Buckingham: "That was one of the reasons we decided we would do a few more Christine McVie songs this time and that we would find ways to do them that are more about Stevie's and my dynamic. I've been talking to Stevie a lot and it's great, the chemistry, the history; I've known her since we were both in high school. And it's not only intriguing but it gives me a big smile that we're going to go out there as a band, the four of us, and particularly Stevie and myself, and be able to bridge all the crap that maybe we've never been able to completely bridge before. We're talking about a band whose sensibilities are so disparate that probably on some level we don't really have much business being in a band together. . . . It's the synergy of that, that makes it work, that makes it greater than the sum of its parts. I think it becomes important and timely to acknowledge that and to share it with each other."
New record on the horizon
The band members hope to keep that synergy going when they get off the road and into the studio.
Nicks: "There's nothing better than having a totally tight, rehearsed band go in and make a record because you're playing great and you've been hanging out for a long time. I'm excited about it because I think the world should have another Fleetwood Mac record. Even if it doesn't sell one record, what it is for us is the experience of making the record. It really is the journey of making 'Rumours,' of making [her first solo album] 'Bella Donna,' of making these really precious records in the long run that is almost more important than what they did when they left us."
Buckingham: "I think there are chapters yet to be written with this band, and there are chapters that need to be written for the people themselves. There have been some things left hanging out there, and this isn't just a band getting together to do it for the bucks. . . . I'm getting quite excited about it, I have to say."