Fleetwood Mac celebrates its songbird’s return
by Andy Smith
PROVIDENCE, R.I. — “She makes us all complete,” said Fleetwood Mac drummer Mick Fleetwood.
He was referring to singer and keyboard player Christine McVie, back with the band after a 16-year absence. Her return brings the band back to its most successful lineup, the one that sold a zillion copies of “Rumours” back in 1977.
McVie doesn’t have the mystic gypsy-witch appeal of Stevie Nicks, nor the guitar prowess of Lindsey Buckingham, but her presence solidifies the band — and she’s written some of the most appealing songs in their catalog.
Fans at the band’s show at the Dunkin’ Donuts Center Wednesday night looking for prime-time Fleetwood Mac got their wish, with a two-and-half hour show that included big chunks of “Rumours” and its predecessor, 1975′s “Fleetwood Mac.”
The three singers, McVie, Buckingham and Nicks, ranged across the front of the stage, with the rhythm section of Fleetwood and bassist John McVie just behind. At the back of the stage were some reinforcements — an additional guitarist, keyboard player and three backup singers.
As a wise man once said, we get by with a little help from our friends, and the augmented Fleetwood Mac mostly sounded good Wednesday. The exception was the drums, which were mixed too loud, particularly early in the show, and nearly drowned out the singing on numbers such as “Second Hand News.”
The show opened with a potent string of hits: “The Chain,” “You Make Loving Fun” “Dreams,” “Second Hand News,” and Nicks’ signature “Rhiannon.”
Band members were in a talkative mood, heaping praises upon McVie. They had come to Providence from New York, which has been spared the brunt of the snowstorm, but thanked the packed audience at the Dunk for coming out after the storm.
Buckingham took center stage on a rocking “I Know I’m Not Wrong” “Tusk” and “Big Love,” the latter a showcase for his solo acoustic guitar playing.
The band offered some interesting new takes on familiar songs.
For “Never Going Back Again,” Buckingham and Nicks sang very quietly, sometimes just above a whisper. There was an extended version of “Gold Dust Woman,” with Nicks donning a glittering gold shawl over her black outfit. The song faded to a ghostly echo as Nicks turned her back to the audience and stretched the shawl out like an angel’s wings.
Not that familiarity is a bad thing. “Go Your Own Way,” once it revved up, it had the crowd dancing and singing along, while Nicks shook her tambourine festooned with streamers and Buckingham leaned his guitar over the front row.
For their encore, the band did “World Turning,” with a drum solo from Fleetwood while he exhorted the audience (“Give it up!) through his headset mike. I have a “Just say no” policy towards drum solos, but many in the audience seemed to like it.
“Don’t Stop” might be over-played by now, but it had the audience singing along anyway.
The last word — or at least the last song — fittingly went to McVie, who did “Songbird” solo until she was finally joined by Buckingham at the finish.