Thursday, May 30, 2013

Evening with Fleetwood Mac was all about looking back… and sometimes forward ★★★☆☆

Concert Review: Fleetwood Mac
MGM Grand Garden Arena, May 26
By Cindi Reed
Photo by Tom Donoghue

When it comes to shawls, the line between gypsy and grandma is a thin one. Performing on her 65th birthday, former ’70s-era ethereal goddess Stevie Nicks straddled that line with heavy feet. Suffering from a knee ailment, Nicks kept her famous twirling to a minimum and moved on and off stage with a slight limp. When the audience spontaneously sang “Happy Birthday” after “Landslide,” Nicks shooed them silent, saying that you could only wish her a happy un-birthday because she wasn’t celebrating her birthday.

Despite Nicks’ desire to ignore the passage of time, the evening was all about looking back … and sometimes forward. Sure, there were the classic hits, including “Second Hand News,” “Dreams,” “Rhiannon,” “Go Your Own Way” and “Don’t Stop.” But old issues were also brought up anew: Guitarist Lindsey Buckingham defended the artistic merits of 1979’s commercial flop Tusk as if he were justifying it to a studio executive; Nicks thanked drummer Mick Fleetwood for letting her join the band as if she were a new arrival; and Nicks and Buckingham harkened back to their long-dead romance by dancing together. The future came in the form of two songs (“Sad Angel” and “Without You”) from Extended Play, their new EP.

Unfortunately, Nicks’ voice hasn’t weathered the years unscathed. Her distinctive sound has become yet even more distinctive by way of an increased muted nasal quality. At some points she seemed to miss notes. The songs no longer perfectly matched those old albums, but that’s OK, because it was real.

Buckingham, on the other hand, still soared on vocals and astounded on guitar, often allowing his voice to overpower Nicks’ on harmonies. Fleetwood charmed as an impish renaissance Santa Claus with a mighty drum solo on “World Turning.”

After two encores and a two-and-a-half-hour show, these musicians already couldn’t let go of the (very near) past. When the music had stopped and while the audience was fleeing, Nicks gave a New Age-y speech about how the fans were her “dream catchers.” When she was done, Fleetwood replaced her with a speech of his own, entreating all to remember that the “Mac is back.” As if we could ever forget.

Fleetwood Mac Reunites at Hollywood Bowl
Rejuvenated and finally unencumbered by their past, Fleetwood Mac played a formidable show
Los Angeles Magazine
by Sonya Singh
Photo by Sonya Singh

Nothing ever turns out as expected for Fleetwood Mac. Whether their collapsing relationships were translating into their best albums or their tour announcements were coming on the heels of an interview saying they’d never tour again, the British-American quartet found themselves hugging it out on stage following an explosive hometown show at the Hollywood Bowl on Saturday night. 

They’ve overcome plenty to look so at peace with one another, but that’s where the tranquility ended. The band came out swinging with “Secondhand News,” summoning so much gusto that it’s a wonder they didn’t run ahead of the song’s tempo. “L.A., let’s get ready to party!” cried Stevie Nicks to a blast of cheers before launching into her breakup hit “Dreams.” The fretwork of Lindsey Buckingham, particularly on “I’m So Afraid,” proved that he is still one of the most underrated guitarists in rock. A wide-eyed Mick Fleetwood breathed new life into straightforward drum parts while slick bassist John McVie calmly maintained his place as the band’s rock. It’s no great revelation, though, that Nicks — “Our lady, our poet,” as Fleetwood introduced her — stole the scene, twirling around the stage and ad libbing new lines into “Gold Dust Woman,” likely inspired by the night’s full moon.

Fleetwood Mac has always been the sum of its unique parts, and for all the band’s hits, the absence of any member is keenly felt. Keyboardist Christine McVie, whose compositions arguably rank among Fleetwood Mac’s finest, retired from touring in the ’90s. While skillful, their longtime backup singers tucked at stage left failed to compensate for her warm vocal harmonies. The reports that she may take the stage with her former bandmates when they play in London has set L.A. fans abuzz. If she’ll play one of the band’s two hometowns, why not the other? 

Even without hits like “Everywhere,” “You Make Lovin’ Fun” and former show-closer “Songbird,” the two-and-a-half-hour set did not disappoint. Greatest hits were celebrated alongside new releases like “Sad Angel” and “Without You,” a holdover from 1970s Buckingham/Nicks songwriting. They also played “Landslide,” “Go Your Own Way,” and “The Chain,” as well as a Stevie Nicks solo track and a few deeper cuts including “Not That Funny” and “Sisters of the Moon," the latter of which they haven’t played since 1982’s Mirage Tour. Both songs come from Tusk, the unusual Rumours followup album.

No one would have blamed Fleetwood Mac if their show felt like a forced TV reunion with plastered smiles and rose-tinted nostalgia. It was far more genuine. “It smells like you’re having a good time out there,” joked Buckingham, but so was the band. They told stories of their early years in L.A. — the only way Buckingham would agree to Fleetwood’s request join the band, as we also learned in Dave Grohl’s Sound City documentary, was if he could bring Nicks. Now the most famous member of the bunch, she thanked Fleetwood and John McVie “for telling Lindsey he could bring the girl along.” The warmth between Nicks and Buckingham never ebbed even as he growled “Damn your love/Damn your lies” during “The Chain.” Their closing duet of “Say Goodbye” left a few people dabbing their eyes with the corners of their sleeves. Rejuvenated and finally unencumbered by their past, Fleetwood Mac proved themselves as formidable and as together as ever.

Fleetwood Mac’s Live 2013 tour will circled back around to the Staples Center on July 3. Tickets are still available. 

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Coulda swore I was in Vegas, but guess I was at the Hollywood Bowl. The show I saw with 5 friends at a place called the MGM, was the complete opposite of the Vegas reviews. Stevie's vocals soared. Lindsey was rough-- and that's being nice.
And yes, she turned 65, but looks 15-20 years younger. She has aged much better than Lindsey.
I showed these reviews to my friends. Enraged sums it up. Incredulous too. Like myself, astonished by the Vegas reviewers.

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