Saturday, May 16, 2009

(REVIEW) FLEETWOOD MAC VANCOUVER

Fleetwood Mac concert recalls a golden age of mega-bands
TheTimesColonist

Fleetwood Mac - Photo Gallery

VANCOUVER - As has been noted countless times since Fleetwood Mac announced their intention to head back out on the road in 2009, Fleetwood Mac: Unleashed is the first tour the band have done without a record to promote. Call it a greatest hits tour, if you must, but the remaining members of the group — Stevie Nicks, Lindsey Buckingham, John McVie, and the man who started it all, Mick Fleetwood — have been on record as saying they’ll play what they please.

From the opening salvo of Monday Morning as the group hit the GM Place stage Friday night, it was clear that the songs this incarnation of the group prefer are the ones that they wrote themselves. That Morning kicked off the set was likely no accident – the track opened Fleetwood Mac’s self-titled album (a.k.a. The White Album), the first marking the appearance of Buckingham and Nicks. Yes, the evening would draw on the “mega-band” era of the Mac, absent the songs of Miss Christine McVie, who for reasons known only to her still hasn’t come back to the fold.

Morning was followed up by The Chain, laying waste to any doubt that the group would stray too far from their musical explorations at the top of the charts.

In short order, Nicks announced “Let’s get this party started!” before segueing into a somewhat anti-climactically loping version of Dreams. From the rasp in her already somewhat bleating voice, it was clear that Nicks is not yet fully recovered from the illness that caused the group to postpone its Calgary and Edmonton dates earlier last week. Though Nicks was clearly doing her best to “unleash the furies” as she’s so often been quoted as saying, the back-up singers did most of the heavy lifting, and the black-clad icon stayed well clear of the high notes.

While everyone in attendance expected the best of Fleetwood Mac, it was a little more surprising that the set took some time to highlight songs written outside the group. Buckingham, clad in a leather jacket and a deep v-neck that revealed a leathery California tan, delivered a cracking version of the title track from 1984’s Go Insane, while Nicks disappeared off stage, perhaps to light more incense or have a drink of throat coat.

The tambourine-wielding witchy woman was back in short order for Rhiannon, with Nicks again backing off the high notes. There's a reason this song is impossibly difficult to sing at karaoke, and anyone who ever clammed the high-notes on the chorus while singing along must have been slightly pleased to see Nicks staying in the lower ranges.

As much as the songwriters Nicks and Buckingham were the main attraction (this was made explicit with the pair shown split-screen on the Jumbotron nearly the entire show), McVie and Fleetwood, the group’s namesakes, are still as solid as ever. McVie stood stoically in place on stage, seemingly still clad in his –Rumours-era costume, and Fleetwood shone on the unbeatably catchy Tusk, the first song of the night that seemed to ignite the crowd of boomers.

For those in the crowd who didn’t get to see late‘70s line-up of Fleetwood Mac in their original glory, and know the band only through the pilfered record collections of parents and older siblings, there where a few moments when fidelity wasn’t exactly as hoped. Never Going Back Again. Buckingham’s lilting gem from Rumours started out a slow-ed down acoustic whisper, but, by the end, as the grey-haired tenor belted into the microphone, it brought to mind, again, slightly inebriated karaoke.

What still sticks out the most, however, is absence of Christine McVie. While the balladeering pianist has been gone for over ten years, her absence still made itself known: So Afraid and the monster rock jam of Oh Well drew the male majority of the group into sharp relief, and Say You Will, in particular, seemed patchy without McVie’s posh soprano and bouncy keys. A group of professionals to be sure, the four remaining quickly followed up with Gold Dust Woman a dyed-in-the-wool Stevie Nicks original — the kind that could almost make an audience ask "Christine who?"

To that end, by the time a top-hat clad Nicks and a pogo-ing Buckingham led the crowd through a sing-along of Go Your Own Way, it mattered not that the group showed a few bumps and bruises after 30 plus years. The songs themselves — always the raison d'ĂȘtre of Fleetwood Mac through its many members and four decades — are still fresh and phenomenally catchy, and, if a gleefully dancing house at GM Place was anything got go by, something much greater than the band itself.

As a final note, that Mick Fleetwood took a seven-minute drum solo in the middle of encore World Turning, was a bit of magic. After starting the band in ’67 and overseeing the comings and goings of some 17 members, the 61-year-old band leader certainly deserves to bang his epic kit for as long as he pleases. That it was enjoyable to listen to was merely a bonus, that he looked happiest when introducing the talent around him – backup singers and stars both — is perhaps the magic ingredient that has kept the group a draw for so many years.

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