By Brandy McDonnell Entertainment Writer
The passing of four decades, the retirement of a core member and one of the most turbulent histories in rock ‘n’ roll haven’t dimmed the star power of Fleetwood Mac one watt.
The remaining members of the seminal pop-rock band — singer/guitarist Lindsey Buckingham, singer Stevie Nicks, drummer Mick Fleetwood and bassist John McVie — effectively sent the BOK Center into a time warp back to the 1970s for about two and half hours Sunday night.
“There’s no new album to promote — yet,” Buckingham told the appreciative near-sellout crowd of about 13,000. “So we decided let’s just go out and do those songs that we all love, and hopefully, they’re the ones you love, too.”
For the Tulsa stop on the “Unleashed: Hits Tour 2009,” the quartet let loose on a string of favorites, mostly from their classic ‘70s albums “Fleetwood Mac,” “Rumours” and “Tusk.” The years have taken their toll in a few ways, and the warm vocals of former singer/pianist Christine McVie (who retired in 1998) were certainly missed.
But Fleetwood Mac has maintained its consummate chemistry and musicianship. And that’s amazing considering what Buckingham described as the band’s “complex and convoluted emotional history.”
Emerging from darkness to the crowd’s excited cheers, the group launched the concert with the bouncy “Monday Morning,” putting Buckingham in the lead on vocals and showing off his still fleet fingers.
On his solo “Gift of Screws” tour last fall, the multitalented musician, 59, electrified Tulsa’s intimate Brady Theater, and he proved Sunday that his spellbinding picking and quirky vocals can still captivate an entire arena, too. He blazed through his flamenco-style version of “Big Love,” the frenetic “I Know I’m Not Wrong” and the intense “I’m So Afrai d,” often bending over limply and then straightening to shout “Oh, yeah” at the end of his songs.
With their deep catalog of hits, the group could afford to put their throbbing trademark “The Chain” second on the set list. The dramatic song got the fans chanting along on the chorus and proved that Fleetwood and John McVie still form a formidable rhythm section.
When Nicks stepped into the spotlight with the hopeful hit “Dreams,” the show briefly took a worrisome turn. Her vocals were markedly deeper and less supple than in the past, and she let the trio of female backup singers carry the high note at the end.
But the songstress, who turns 61 on May 26, sounded more like her familiar sultry-voiced self on the evocative “Gypsy.” Plus, she shared the story behind the music: Buckingham was a former schoolmate who called her a couple of years after they first met to ask her to join his hard rock band.
“That moment catapulted me into the greatest musical time of all time, 1965 to 1970, in San Francisco, Ashbury Park. ... where I’m back to the velvet underground,” she said, referencing the opening lines of “Gypsy,” a childhood favorite of mine that brought back potent memories.
By the time she got to her witchy signature track, “Rhiannon,” Nicks’ voice was warmed up and ready to blast out her powerful ballads. With her black dress, glittering shawl and long blond tresses flowing, she looked lovely and ethereal, and it wasn’t long before she was doing her distinctive swaying dance and twirling around the stage.
Later donning a crimson gown and shimmering golden shawl, Nicks wailed tunefully about shattered illusions of love and mesmerized the audience with her hypnotic dancing on “Gold Dust Woman.” My favorite Fleetwood Mac song, it thrummed with the drama of a Wild West showdown.
Though their romance ended long ago, the musical chemistry still crackles between Buckingham and Nicks. The former lovers were in perfect sync as they belted out hits chronicling their rocky relationship, from the achingly beautiful “Landslide” to the rollicking “Second Hand News.” They ended the wistful “Sara” with a tender moment, each laying their head on the other’s shoulder, with Buckingham still playing guitar.
“For the tour, we wanted to include a song we’d never performed live before. This is a stormy song for a stormy group of people,” Nicks said in introducing the heartbreaking “Storms,” which all four members performed at the forefront of the stage, with Fleetwood on a mini drum set.
The quartet stayed front and center for a bold take on “Say You Love Me,” a Christine McVie hit. Nicks and Buckingham took turns on vocals for their rootsier rendition, which was fun but couldn’t surpass the original.
The show featured too many highlights to mention, but Fleetwood Mac made sure to end the set on a high note. An extended drum intro built anticipation before the band erupted into the rollicking pop classic “Go Your Own Way,” which got the fans bouncing and singing along.
Screaming, clapping and stomping their feet, the crowd demanded an encore, and the band obliged with a foot-stomping rendition of “World Turning” which included a raucous extended drum solo from the wild-eyed Fleetwood.
The perky pop hit “Don’t Stop” again got the fans singing and dancing to what seemed to be an upbeat end of the show. But soon after the lights dimmed, they came up again for a second encore, the sparkling ballad “Silver Springs,” a soulful and fitting finale.
Before he left the stage, Fleetwood quipped, “Remember, the Mac is back.” And on Sunday night, they showed everyone at the BOK Center that their greatest hits truly are still great.