Fleetwood Mac's Unleashed 2009 tour comes to Rochester
By: JEFF SPEVAK
Lindsey Buckingham left Fleetwood Mac two decades ago, he says, "for my own sanity."
Call Buckingham crazy, if the price is right. Christine McVie hasn't toured with the band since the early '90s. But Buckingham, Stevie Nicks, John McVie and Mick Fleetwood can't turn their backs on Fleetwood Mac's long-running experiment in interpersonal train wreck and pop perfection, which comes to the Blue Cross Arena at the War Memorial on Monday.
"I guess I don't need it," Buckingham says. "At the same time, I'm not prepared to say I don't. ..."
His voice trails off to introspective ellipses. "The reasons don't always have something to do with defining the art," he says. "There may be unfinished business that you need to look at on a personal level."
Buckingham's 60 now, and his personal levels seem fine. Talking by phone from his home in California, he sounds quite Zen.
"Well, yeah, I'm probably as calm as I've ever been," Buckingham agrees. Fleetwood Mac, he says, "created a kind of mythology around us that was definitely a hook. It took a long, long time to get a little less emotionally defensive."
He put down his guard after meeting Kristen, a photographer, at a recording session. "We connected, ended up going out for coffee," Buckingham says. "I had just come out of a fairly long and involved dysfunctional relationship with another woman. There had been a series of those. She broke that pattern."
Now they're married with three kids, the oldest 10. "That might not have happened," Buckingham reasons, "had that not all happened."
By that, he means a band that, when he joined in 1974, was well into middle age for a rock group, having burned its way through a vast cast of personalities and sounds.
He and Stevie Nicks, whom he'd known since high school, were just getting started with the release of their debut album, the folk-pop Buckingham Nicks.
"I was talking about this with Stevie recently," Buckingham says. "It wasn't an easy decision to join the band. There was a certain vision with what we wanted to do, even though we had done that one album and it had come and gone.
"Synergy brought all of these people together. Mick, he asked me to join, and I said, 'You've got to take my girlfriend as well.'"
Buckingham became the driving musical force, as both writer and producer, with Nicks its sexy gypsy chanteuse.
The band's self-titled album of 1975 remade Fleetwood Mac into the sound of the decade. Rumours followed two years later, becoming the biggest-selling pop album of all time for a while, in world that had already seen the Beatles.
"We were recording Rumours even as everything was breaking up. Stevie and I were breaking up, John and Christine were getting divorced. We kind of had to rise above it.
"I think it was a fairly unique situation, with two women in a band who were partners with two of the three men. That in itself becomes a tabloid hook. Thank God we weren't doing that in today's media, we would have gotten eaten alive. It was not easy, as a producer, seeing Stevie moving away from me. It was an exercise in compartmentalizing emotions, putting them in a corner so you could get things done. Filter out the trauma and anxiety.
"I wasn't aware that the songs were so specifically addressing what was going on in our lives. You do pull from personal experiences. It's kind of a generic thing, a sum of the parts, where you have three songwriters writing songs to each other. Once the audience picked up on that, and that became part of Rumours, that made it successful. It brought out the voyeur in everybody."
Weary of people peeking into his personal windows, Buckingham left the band in 1987. He has returned several times.
"One of the things that that kind of success teaches you is it's a doubled-edged sword," he says. "We had an album, Rumours, that was selling in the millions, and a choice has to be made. You can be branded as one thing. The fans seem to want that. But more importantly, the machinery wants to see you repeat that formula. Not necessarily for good reasons."
He balances the machinery with a healthy dose of lower-profile solo work — some of which evolved into Fleetwood Mac music — always aware that, "the Fleetwood Mac thing would slowly cultivate the story of my life, and I'd be making these albums that don't get heard very much. It's not easy for me. You mount these things and lose money every time, playing for 2,500, 2,000 people a night."
Several times, Buckingham speaks of this music beyond Fleetwood Mac in spiritual terms. Something that can "keep the connotation of the religion that I think the work should have."
"The work has a very holy kind of feel to it when you're doing it properly. It's nurturing to your inner self. It grounds you. It gives you a strong sense of self, a strong sense that there is magic in the world. A calmness to be had."
IF YOU GO
What: Fleetwood Mac.
When: 8 p.m. Monday.
Where: Blue Cross Arena.
Tickets: $49.50, $79.50 and $149.50, available at the arena box office, 1 War Memorial Square, and at Ticketmaster, www.ticketmaster.com and (585) 232-1900.
Call: (585) 758-5300.