REVIEW of the week: Fleetwood Mac * * * *
DUBLIN, IRELAND - 02
By Ed Power
Friday October 30 2009
Fleetwood Mac used to be something of a bad joke among the rock cognoscenti, a guilty pleasure best enjoyed with a generous side-serving of irony. However, in recent years a new generation of musicians has stepped forward to claim them as an influence -- Bat for Lashes, Florence and the Machine and The Feeling are among the artists who have publicly acknowledged their debt to the Anglo-American FM rockers and their dreamy sound.
Live, the most surprising thing about the group, back for an umpteenth reunion tour but minus singer and songwriter Christine McVie, is how full-on they are -- "soft rock" has seldom felt this prickly or intense. Snapping the whip and stoking the engine is Lindsey Buckingham, the 60-year-old frontman who throws himself into the performance as though he were a 20-something competing in a battle of the bands contest.
From the opening note of Monday Morning, he's a whirlwind of manic, live-wire energy. He grimaces, shrieks and batters his guitar. At the conclusion of Tusk, Fleetwood Mac's anti-commercial curve-ball from 1979, he's bent over yelling his lungs out, a river of sweat sluicing down his face.
In contrast, vocalist Stevie Nicks, in a chiffon dress similar to the one she sported on the cover of the group's gadzillion selling 1977 album Rumours, cuts a surprisingly slight presence. Her voice is buried in the mix, wavering when it should soar. That's a shame because her dusky croon is the moon dust that elevates Fleetwood Mac's best songs out of the ordinary (nonetheless, she does provide one of the evening's most affecting moments, dedicating Landslide to Stephen Gately).
Solid accompaniment, meanwhile, is provided by drummer Mick Fleetwood and bassist John McVie, the blues veterans after whom the band is named -- though it's clear they are glad to leave the pyrotechnics to Buckingham
Much of the set is drawn from Rumours. Recorded when the two couples in the line-up -- Buckingham and Nicks and John and Christine McVie -- were going through messy break-ups (and hopping in and out of bed with each other), it's the easy listening equivalent of a Tolstoy novel, a multifaceted epic that gains in stature with each passing year.
Not that these tracks are ever in danger of sounding like museum pieces: teetering between Buckingham's guitar and McVie's bass, The Chain verges on proto metal; there's a palpable bitter sweet ache to Don't Stop and a euphoric tingle to Go Your Own Way, surely among the best kiss-offs to a lover ever written.
Standing at the lip of the stage, Buckingham, is as happy to bask in the attention as the rest of Fleetwood Mac are to surrender it. So it's no surprise that the concert's finest moment comes when everyone else is ushered into the wings and he bashes out an acoustic version of their 1987 hit, Big Love. It's one of many stunning turns by the lanky vocalist tonight. If only Nicks had delivered some fireworks of her own.