by Ernest Jasmin
Two things have been in abundant supply for Fleetwood Mac during the band’s first four decades: Smash hits and behind the scenes drama.
The legendary rock outfit packed plenty of the former into a monster, 22-song greatest hits set Saturday night at the Tacoma Dome. And early on, singer-guitarist Lindsey Buckingham got a laugh, alluding to the drama with a dry, understatement about his band’s “fairly complex and convoluted emotional history.”
That history, of course, includes his past romantic entanglements with smoky-voiced band mate, Stephanie “Stevie” Nicks and bassist John McVie’s ill-fated marriage to departed keyboard player, Christine McVie. Those rocky relationships tested the band’s stability over the years while adding creative tension to cuts like “Second Hand News” and “Storms,” a song that Nicks introduced as being about “stormy people in dark, dark, stormy relationships” Saturday night.
But against all odds, Fleetwood Mac has endured through all that “Behind the Music” turmoil, not to mention roughly a gazillion lineup changes. And Buckingham declared, “Every time we come together there’s a sense of forward motion.”
Granted, that statement that seemed a tad ironic in one sense, since the Unleashed tour is all about revisiting the band's '70s/'80s heyday. Fleetwood Mac doesn't have a new album for 2009 (“yet,” as Buckingham emphasized.) Not that all those cheering Baby Boomers at the T-Dome seemed to care.
But Fleetwood Mac is a legendary band seemingly back in peak form after seeing its share of troubles. And at times Saturday’s set did seem like a triumph, as if the veteran group had moved on to a happier, more stable place.
The quartet - also big, wild-eyed drummer Mick Fleetwood - was backed by a great supporting cast: Neale Heywood on guitar and backing vocals; Brett Tuggle on keyboards; and Sharon Celani, Jana Anderson and Lori Nicks (Stevie’s sister-in-law) on backing vocals.
And while Fleetwood and John McVie may be the band’s namesakes, with Christine McVie long gone, Fleetwood Mac has essentially become the Lindsey Buckingham/Stevie Nicks show, with Buckingham’s manic intensity contrasting and often overshadowing Nicks’ icy detachment.
Buckingham’s buoyant, finger-picked melodies elevated early set numbers “Monday Morning,” “The Chain” and “Dreams.” Later, the guitarist held little back, whooping and stomping like a revival tent preacher after nailing cathartic passages in “Never Going Back” and an intense, solo, acoustic delivery of “Big Love.” An especially invigorating moment saw Buckingham swatting at his fret board, as if he were banging a set of bongos, during an epic solo that turned “I’m So Afraid” into a late set highlight.
And the comparatively aloof Nicks did her share of thrilling, too, most notably on “Gypsy” (about she and Buckingham’s early days in the San Francisco outfit Buckingham Nicks); “Landslide” (one of the most elegant ballads of the mid-1970s, which she dedicated to her friend, Valerie); and “Gold Dust Woman” (during which Nicks belatedly seemed to hit her stride, delivering a few twirls as psychedelic haze wafted across projection screens behind her.)
The show started half an hour late, and usual set closer “Silver Springs” got the axe as 11 o' clock curfew approached. But bubbly “Rumours” era smash “Don’t Stop” seemed a more fitting finale for the new show's feel-good vibe, anyway.