After five dormant years, Fleetwood Mac has regrouped to hit the road on the band's first-ever tour without a new album to promote.
By ERIC R. DANTON | The Hartford Courant
So why now?
That's easy, Stevie Nicks says: The universe was ready for what Fleetwood Mac is calling "Unleashed."
"'Unleashed' to me meant unleashing the furies, unleashing us back into the universe," she says on a rambling conference call with reporters before starting the tour that comes Saturday to Mohegan Sun. "'Unleashed' to me was an edgy term of throwing this amazing musical entity back into the world that we had been away from."
There you have it. With no new songs to slot in, Nicks, Lindsey Buckingham, Mick Fleetwood and John McVie have drawn up a set list of greatest hits, mostly from the '70s. There's a lot to choose from. Fleetwood Mac's 1977 album "Rumours" is one of the biggest records of all time, with sales of more than 19 million copies in the United States, and the band's self-titled 1975 album and 1979's "Tusk" yielded plenty of fan favorites, too.
"This is truly a new experience for Fleetwood Mac to go out ... and play songs that we believe and hope that people are really going to be familiar with," Fleetwood says.
Fans are bound to appreciate a hits-heavy set, but playing shows without the pressure of rehearsing and fitting in new songs relieves the band of a certain burden, too.
"What it does is it kind of frees you up to kind of enjoy each other a little bit more as people," Buckingham says. "The mantra is really more 'Let's just have a good time' and value, you know, the friendships and the history that really underpins this whole experience that we've had over these years."
The band has a famously fractious history, with near-constant lineup changes since its founding in 1967, and various intra-band romantic relationships disintegrating during the period of Fleetwood Mac's biggest success in the mid-'70s. Christine McVie, who was there for the huge hits, left in 1998. Even now, there are flare-ups: Buckingham says that after the band's previous tour, for the 2003 album "Say You Will," "there was some discontent over how things were left."
He continues, "You wouldn't think it would be possible all these years later, but it is still to some degree a work in progress in terms of how we all interact as people."
Since rehearsals for this tour began, though, everyone is all smiles.
"Lindsey has been in incredibly good humor since we started rehearsal on the fifth of January," Nicks says. "And when Lindsey is in a good humor, everybody is in a good humor. When he's happy, everybody is happy."
Although the band has been dormant, the musicians haven't. Nicks has released a greatest-hits record and toured, Fleetwood put out a solo album in 2004 and Buckingham has been something of a road warrior, crisscrossing the country in support of a pair of recent studio albums. Those side projects, they say, help them to stay sharp.
"It's like it's you never get bored," Nicks says. "And so you can do your thing until you start to get bored and then you can go to the other thing. And then you can do that until you start to get bored and then you can go back to the other thing."
It's possible, though not certain, that the first other thing — Fleetwood Mac — will work on a new album after this tour is over.
"There have been discussions for sure that we would love to make some more music," Fleetwood says. "And I think it's really down to the whole sort of bio-rhythms of how everyone is feeling and what's appropriate. We have careers and families and whole different sort of perspectives from what it would have been you know 20, 30 years ago."
First things first, though: the tour. Fleetwood Mac outings are relatively rare, which gives the musicians added motivation to put on the best show possible.
"We don't do this that often," Fleetwood says. "But when we do it, we try to do it right, even with some of the complications that come with. But we don't do it when it's not possible and it doesn't feel right. And this feels really right to be doing this now."
•FLEETWOOD MAC performs Saturday at Mohegan Sun. Tickets for the 8 p.m. show are $175, $150 and $125. Information: 860-862-7163.