Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Fleetwood Mac takes a while finding its groove


LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) - Fleetwood Mac's show was ambling along on Saturday. The packed crowd at the Honda Center in Anaheim was being entertained but not really affected.

"We're gonna get this party started," Stevie Nicks said after the second number, and the band began "Dreams" -- a No. 1 single from a 19 million-selling LP, but not what leaps to mind when one thinks "party starter."

And so it went for more than an hour: pleasant old songs, pleasantly recited, with the occasional address to the audience. But then the vibe changed.

The once-huge group played "Say You Love Me," written and originally sung by Mac retiree Christine McVie. Lindsey Buckingham embellished the second verse, almost arguing with the melody. The 40-year rhythm section of Mick Fleetwood and John McVie made it rumble.

The song earned the evening's first true roar, and it was game on.

Nicks then let loose on "Gold Dust Woman," offering her most inspired vocal of the night. Then came "Oh Well," the set's oldest song and by far its hardest-rocking. Buckingham bit off the lines, keeping the emphatic pauses, then ripped off a long guitar solo that was heavier than anything he ever recorded with Fleetwood Mac.

The crowd had caught on, and the rest of the night was terrific.

Taken in full, this was exactly what a heritage rock act playing arenas should deliver: Put aside any simmering personal issues and play 2-1/2 hours of the biggest hits, with a few fan-favorite album cuts and some nuggets -- at a top ticket price of $150.

Of course, "personal issues" were synonymous with Fleetwood Mac at the height of its popularity (18 of the night's 23 songs came from the group's megaplatinum 1975-79 era). Buckingham acknowledged the band's "fairly complex and convoluted emotional history." Those old tensions were evident as the main quartet kept their distance onstage as if separated by minefields. Meanwhile, the giant video screens often showed Buckingham and Nicks side by side as if via Photoshop.

Backed by two musicians -- tucked in a nook that was borderline backstage -- and three singers, the Mac was in good form. Buckingham sang and played with fervor, adding bursts of big guitar. Dressed in her trademark webby chiffon that resembles a giant doily, Nicks played air drums and guitar and real tambourine, her smoky vocals steering clear of the higher ranges but working well otherwise. Fleetwood and John McVie laid down typically solid rhythms, the former taking a brief eyes-closed drum solo.

Christine McVie was missed, with only a few of her songs making the set list. But this was an enjoyable show that justified a veteran act hitting the road with no new material. As Buckingham said: "This time we said to each other, 'Let's just go out and have fun.' ... There is no new album -- yet."

No need, really.

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