Thursday, March 19, 2009

REVIEW: Fleetwood Mac Live in Toronto - Hit Makers Delivered a Crisp Concert


When Fleetwood Mac began preparing for its current greatest-hits tour, the idea was to use Sheryl Crow as a lean, tan stand-in for former singer-pianist Christine McVie. But, either because of scheduling problems or because of Crow's unfrivolous concern that she would be required to sleep with at least one current band member, the All I Wanna Do singer passed. So it was Lindsey Buckingham, Stevie Nicks, and band namesakes John McVie and Mick Fleetwood who arrived at Toronto's Air Canada Centre for the first of seven Canadian dates. Brad Wheeler scores the four



Monday Morning, the singer-guitarist's 1975 song of romantic indecision, came early - too early for the soundman, who hadn't turned on Buckingham's microphone yet. His singing, a bit scratchy to begin, improved as the 23-song show went along. Buckingham, a fit 59, dazzled as a guitarist, whether on the shimmering delta-blues intro to The Chain, the genteel finger-picking of Never Going Back Again, the iconic solo of Second Hand News or the superhuman arena-rocking shredding of I'm So Afraid. The same magic fingers that plucked those strings also, as the band walked onstage, clasped the hands of the golden-haired diva to his right.


"Now, I think we should get this party started," the woman in the flowing black gown said, audaciously, given that the concert was already a pair of songs in. But Dreams, third on the set list, was her first moment. Nicks, at 60, is no longer a sultry waif. Her voice is lamb-like; on Don't Stop, I wished that she would, because she was not suited for Christine McVie's parts. She was wonderful on signature pieces Sara and Rhiannon, though, and was positively jaunty with her black top hat on the buoyant singalong Go Your Own Way. Nice shawls, naturally, and her tambourine and mike stand had scarves attached.

Commenting on the chaos of the time and giving name to the band's landmark album of 1977, McVie observed that the songs sounded like gossip or rumours. Possibly, the hang-dog bassist hasn't opened his mouth since. With his newsboy cap, the 63-year-old Englishman appeared as a country gentleman, hanging back near the drum stand. But his playing, melodic in counterpoint to Buckingham's often percussive style, was noticeable. On the Who-intensity blues-rock of Oh Well, he was vigorous like John Entwistle, and the considerable bounce of Dreams came from his Fender-made instrument.


The overly tall, 61-year-old drummer is grey and bald - his pate shone like the gong behind him (which he never struck). His presence (and his lunatic grin) showed more often as the evening progressed: The jungle-tastic energy during World Turning made his drum solo the most bearable one I've ever had the pleasure to witness.


All in all, the historic hit-makers (augmented by three backup singers and a pair of sidemen) delivered a crisp concert - if anything, the longer it went, the better it got. "We plan to have fun on this tour, because there's no album - yet," Buckingham suggestively quipped at one point. Hmmm, just think what tomorrow will do.

Fleetwood Mac plays Ottawa, March 23; Montreal, March 25; Toronto, March 26; Calgary, May 12; Edmonton, May 13; Vancouver, May 15.

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