By Ludovic Hunter-Tilney
Expectations for a sedate night of heritage rock from a group of sexagenarians notorious for living well but unwisely were shattered as soon as Fleetwood Mac struck up “Monday Morning”. The 1975 track sounded vibrant and crisp, with Mick Fleetwood hammering his kit and Lindsey Buckingham giving some Springsteen-style welly to the vocal. The band were in implausibly good form.
The “Unleashed” world tour is their first get-together in five years. The songs mainly dated from the band’s 1970s heyday, when the Brit blues outfit founded by Fleetwood and John McVie in 1960s London morphed into Anglo-Californian soft-rockers with the addition of Buckingham and Stevie Nicks.
It wasn’t quite the return of the full Rumours-era line-up: McVie’s keyboardist ex-wife Christine was missing, having quit touring in the 1990s. The surviving foursome showed no scars of their turbulent past, an epic tale of excess encompassing drugs, drink, chaotic romantic affairs and Spinal Tap-style follies.
The grey-bearded, pony-tailed Fleetwood, clad eccentrically in black knee-breeches and red court shoes, with a trademark pair of wooden balls dangling from his belt in the style of a mysterious fertility symbol, played with an antic gleam in his eyes: Prospero with a pair of drum sticks. His flat-cap-wearing sidekick McVie was rock-solid on bass, giving tracks such as “The Chain” bite beneath the irresistible West Coast harmonies.
Nicks, “our lady of Fleetwood Mac”, as Fleetwood introduced her, suffered from a low mix on “Dreams” but this was soon rectified. Her look combined rock-chick leather boots and floaty outfits that flowed poetically around her, stirred by a wind machine and her slow, swirling dance moves. Yet there was nothing mystical about her vocals, which had the powerful nasal twang of a country-rock grande dame.
Buckingham led from the front, barking out vocals and playing scorching guitar solos, such as the virtuoso axe heroics at the climax of “I’m So Afraid”. His whoops and “Yee-aahs!” were pure arena-rock ham. No wonder there was no stage scenery – Buckingham would have chewed it up. Yet his performance was tight as a spring. There was nothing bloated about this group of rock survivors.