by: Melissa Martin
Like sands through the hourglass, so are the days of Fleetwood Mac. The soap opera, the splits, the Rumours and the songs... especially the songs.
Admit it, we’re all curious how the story will end.
Last night, Winnipeg got its peek at the next chapter in the iconic rock band’s dramatic saga. They’re keeping mum on what comes next... an album? Another tour? We don’t know; and so fans who’ve spent their entire lives following the plot flooded the MTS Centre, ready for a preview of that Mac’s millionth reunion means.
Everything about the two-hour, 23-song performance seemed designed to keep them guessing. While lion-maned frontwoman Stevie Nicks crooned Dreams, which was recorded during her acrimonious 1976 split from guitarist Lindsey Buckingham, video screens flanking the stage superimposed the pair next to each other.
This lasted but a moment. One star or the other would soon fade away, leaving an empty space on the screen.
Later, on Sara, the former flames would embrace in a moment that was as tender as it was scripted. (They’ve done the same every night this tour.) But first, they had more hints to scatter. "Fleetwood Mac is a band that has had a convoluted emotional history, to say the least," Buckingham said.
"Sometimes we take long breaks. And every time we come together there’s a sense of possibility. This time we said, ‘Let’s just go out there and have fun.’ Because there is no new album to promote... yet."
Nicks and Buckingham weren’t the only ones on stage, of course. John McVie was there, lingering near Mick Fleetwood’s drum riser and seemingly content to stay far out of Nicks’ spotlight. Christine McVie is still absent from the band, and so were almost all of her Mac hits. A six-piece backing band of vocalists, keyboards and percussion shared the stage instead.
At times the backup was subtle, just filling out that fat ’70s sound that Mac helped pioneer. But the extra help made a huge difference on the enormous, boozy title track from 1979 album Tusk. Its instrumental outro reared up into a tsunami of sound and crashed over the audience, leaving a standing ovation as it receded.
Buckingham is a virtuoso, and he channelled his genius into some of the show’s most emotionally charged moments, like the astonishing syncopated melodies at the opening of 1987’s Big Love. His voice, though, was the big star of that tune: Buckingham writhed and howled like a man trying to escape the grip of Hades.
Next to Buckingham, Nicks’ performance was harder to parse. Whether by accident or design, her vocal was unpredictable, more vulnerable, and perhaps appropriately road-weary for her storied life.
The jury’s out on how this affected the musicality of the show. Nicks’ fatigued moan worked on Gold Dust Woman. But on Rhiannon, she fell offbeat. On Sara and then Landslide, she’d lose herself and find herself again, letting her siren voice soar on the choruses, but slurring and mumbling the verses.
One wonders how lacklustre this might have played if Buckingham had not balanced it out with such tightly-wound ferocity.
Then again, it probably would have been just fine. The real energy in the room last night came not from the stage, not even from Buckingham, but from the crowd, who greeted every song with deafening cheers and filled the air with the tinkling of promotional tambourines.
This energy, radiating from the walls and floor, built to feverish levels as Mac started to bring the show home. Giant light panels, which had remained largely subdued and facing downward for most of the show, began to lift and separate like a spaceship while Buckingham wailed out a marathon solo to I’m So Afraid.
At press time, we left the band only one song away from their legendary hit, Go Your Own Way, but Nicks seemed to finally find her sass on Stand Back, shimmying in a tattered black and white scarf.
After a late-set break, Nicks came back having finally found the depths of her famous sass: she belted out Stand Back while whirling around in a tattered black-and-white shawl and then led the band straight into an extended version of Go Your Own Way, which was hearty, triumphant, and followed by the most exuberant cheers we’ll hear at the MTS Centre until the Jonas Brothers.
For the encore, Fleetwood, 61, took control, first banging out an adrenaline-blasting drum feature on World Turning, then shouting praise for his bandmates and even offering Nicks a friendly catcall. "It is a joy and an honour to be sharing the stage with these three people," he shouted, gleefully, before sauntering into the Bill Clinton campaign classic, Don’t Stop.