Thursday, March 26, 2009

REVIEW: Fleetwood Mac - Montreal Nicks, Buckingham balance and complement each other

Fleetwood Mac's golden oldies are aging just fine

Bell Centre gig. Nicks, Buckingham balance and complement each other

Montreal Gazette

When Mick Fleetwood and John McVie formed Fleetwood Mac as a British blues band in 1967, they probably never envisioned that they'd be playing to adoring arena audiences, paying up to $150 per ticket, 42 years later.

And they certainly could not have foreseen, during that long-gone summer of love, that all the adulation would be directed at two Yanks they had yet to meet.

As any of the 11,000 fans at the group's Bell Centre concert last night will tell you, drummer Fleetwood is a muscular timekeeper and bassist McVie provides an unobtrusive, solid anchor of his own. But it's also clear that, at all times, virtually all the energy in the room emanates from - and comes back to - singer Stevie Nicks and guitarist Lindsey Buckingham, the group's songwriters and its heart and soul.

If there was a defining moment in last night's hit-heavy show, it was when Buckingham completely took over Oh Well, a snarling 1969 rocker by original guitarist Peter Green that predates his and Nicks's presence in the band by more than five years. While Buckingham, undeniably the group's frontman, soloed away furiously, Fleetwood played the crazy-old-grandpa part for the benefit of the giant video screens.

Buckingham's prowess on his instrument simply isn't talked about often enough. Whether he's playing tasteful, economical phrases, as he did during ex-member Christine McVie's Say You Love Me, hammering out manic rock-flamenco note clusters in Big Love or fingerpicking the tasty folk-blues licks of Never Going Back Again, he's one of rock's most interesting players.

During his five-minute solo in I'm So Afraid, he made the instrument rumble, shriek and gasp, sending out shards of high-pitched squeals and hammering out repeated patterns. Unlike your average guitar god, Buckingham made no attempt to show how many different notes he could squeeze in per minute.

What makes a Fleetwood Mac show so satisfying, however, is the way Buckingham and Nicks complement and balance each other, in both their vocal blend and their approach to songwriting. For every Buckingham power-pop stomper like I Know I'm Not Wrong or Second Hand News came one of Nicks's earthier, more linear crowd-pleasers, like Gypsy or the sweetly nostalgic Landslide, which she sang in her long-familiar husky, lower register. (And, incidentally, how fantastic did she look?)

Buckingham spoke on stage of the emotional challenges that have defined the group's internal relationships over the years. But during Sara, Nicks crossed over to his side of the stage and he put his head on her shoulder.

Staged? Probably - but really, who cares? That affectionate gesture spoke of a hard-won victory that pretty much ensures that - to paraphrase the group - the chain will never be broken.

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