By Alan Sculley
As a band that's been perhaps as famous for its internal romantic entanglements and conflicts as for its music, it qualifies as news to hear the the mood in Fleetwood Mac is quite sunny as the opening date of the band's spring/summer tour approaches.
But that seemed to be the exact case, as the four band members -- guitarist/singer Lindsey Buckingham, singer Stevie Nicks, drummer Mick Fleetwood and bassist John McVie fielded questions during a mid-February teleconference interview.
"As far as just the personalities have been going, to everybody, not just me and Lindsey, everybody has been getting along great," Nicks said, when asked how rehearsals had been going. "Everybody has been very kind to each other this time around, and when it's going like that, it's a pleasure."
A work in progress
The fact is that even though the Buckingham/Nicks split (as well as the divorce of John McVie and keyboardist/singer Christine McVie) are 30-plus years in the rear view mirror, the personal dynamics within Fleetwood Mac remain, as Buckingham put it, a work in progress.
And one of the main goals for the current tour is to find and maintain some internal harmony that wasn't always present when Fleetwood Mac toured behind its 2003 CD, "Say You Will."
"We did not succeed as well as we could have the last time we did an album and did a tour together," said Buckingham, who is now happily married. "We did not succeed as well as we could have on kind of an interpersonal level. (So) that (means) there was something to shoot for (on the new tour) that was a little higher."
The band members didn't offer specifics about what caused tensions four years ago, but one issue was the absence of Christine McVie, who retired and bowed out of the group a decade ago.
This left Nicks as the only woman in Fleetwood Mac. Unhappy with that dynamic, Nicks spoke of wanting to possibly find a woman to take McVie's place in the band.
And in 2007, rumors surfaced that Sheryl Crow -- a good friend who had produced Nicks' 2001 solo CD, "Trouble In Shangri-La -- was going to join Fleetwood Mac, at least for the 2009 tour.
The band said nothing was ever set in stone with Crow, and in this interview Nicks explained what happened.
"Just to put the Sheryl Crow thing in a nutshell quickly, in fact we rented a studio and we hired a crew and we were ready to go in," Nicks said. "We called her and we needed her to come for three or four days to just play. It was Mother's Day and she had invited all, you know, 300 people in her family there. It was her first Mother's Day as a mom, and she could not do it. And at that point she said I'm going to have to pass. I said I think you're making the right decision. You have a new baby. You have survived breast cancer and Lance Armstrong. I don't think this is the right thing for you, Sheryl. So that's what happened with Sheryl Crow, and she is still our friend and I still adore her."
With Crow out of the picture, the group -- Nicks included -- settled on remaining a foursome. And Nicks now says that she is perfectly comfortable with the structure of the band.
"You have to understand I've been the only girl in Fleetwood Mac now since 1998," Nicks said. "And it's 2009, so I'm used to it now. I miss Christine every day because she was my best buddy. She was my best friend. â€¦ So the loss of Christine as one of my best girlfriends was horrific for me. But she's been gone a long, long time now."
One thing that should help make life easier in Fleetwood Mac this year is the nature of the tour. Called the "Unleashed" tour, it marks the first time the group has gone on tour without having a new album -- or at least new songs -- to promote and bring into its set.
Buckingham said concentrating on playing the band's greatest hits gives the tour an entirely different dynamic.
"What it does is it kind of frees you up to enjoy each other a little bit more as people," he said. "So it takes a little pressure off not having to kind of reinvent anything this particular time. I think because of that we are actually able to just look at the body of work and choose (the hits) from that and then just have a little bit more fun with it than we would normally be able to have when you're trying to sort of work out new stuff for the first time, (and) also integrate it into that body of work and have it all (work together)."
After this tour winds up, new studio album is possible, although the band members aren't guaranteeing this will happen.
"I think the feeling is and the consensus is that we would love to be challenged to go out and do, in a couple of years, something with some new songs," Fleetwood said. "I for one would love to see it happen and we have had loose discussions about doing that."
If you go:
What:? Fleetwood Mac
When: 8 p.m., March 5 and 6
Where: Allstate Arena, 6920 N. Mannheim Road, Rosemont, Ill.
Tickets: $149.50, $79.50, $49.50
Information: (847) 635-6601 or www.allstatearena.com