Monday, May 11, 2009

REVIEW: Fleetwood Mac Live in Kansas City May 8, 2009


By Jason Harper in Last Night's Show


Fleetwood Mac gave precisely the kind of show everyone wanted to see Friday night, which was its strength and weakness. Without a new album to support, the band played most fan favorites back to 1969's "Oh Well," with Lindsay Buckingham admirably playing the Peter Green role and original member Mick Fleetwood's face lighting up in response to that old, familiar call, I can't help about the shape I'm in/I can't sing, I ain't pretty and my legs are thin.

Of course, as that Zeppelinesque ditty showed, immediately trumped by a high energy "I'm So Afraid," this 2009 Fleetwood Mac frontman is in pretty damned good shape. Despite his often labored theatrics, Buckingham showed no signs of flagging energy after two and a half hours of performance, and he almost never left the stage.

The one time he might have (aside from the encore breaks) would have been during "World Turning," when Mick Fleetwood did an extended drum solo. This was a refreshingly spontaneous moment, including mostly incomprehensible calls from the drummer to the audience, "Are you blah blah blah?" That back and forth gradually worked its way from '70s nostalgia to something close to hip-hop with Fleetwood's beats all but scratching in response to sampled bits of the Buckingham and Nick's vocals. When what now sounded like a turntable battle reached near fever pitch, the band retook the stage to close out the song.

This was during the first of two encore sets, which ended with "Go Your Own Way" b-side, "Silver Springs." That Nicks-led song was one of the night's most emotionally affecting moments, along with her other signature songs "Sara" and "Landslide." Nicks's voice sounds as strong as ever, and though sometimes her witchy scarf and top hat antics feel like hopelessly dated shtick, the power and beauty of these songs makes up for it.

The show is meticulously planned out, so much so that the Star was able to print the set list accurately the day before, but the planning has its merits. The changes Buckingham emphasized as the core of "Big Love" giving way to the acceptance in Nicks's "Landslide." And the couple's repeated gestures of affection -- a leaning embrace after "Sara," holding hands before the encores and Buckingham's peck on Nicks' head before "Silver Springs" -- may have been only so much soap opera, but they were reassuring celebrations of the ties that bind us together.

In fact, one of the most moving Buckingham moments came with the great Rumours opener, "Second Hand News." Buckingham's quirky pop sensibility still makes the mix of anger, lust and acceptance as engaging as ever, and Nicks seems to enjoy tearing into that "bam bam bam bam ba bam bam" with a vigor to match Buckingham and the rhythm section. Somehow, those nonsense syllables express the perennial pop music theme of just how bad people can hurt each other and how music can get them through it. The show as a whole celebrates how creativity and platonic love transcend romantic relationships.

That said, rarely did the show exceed expectations. It started off very strong, the second song, "The Chain," showcasing each band member. The most powerful moment, the stage lights going dark except for John McVie's bass and that ominous progression at the heart of the song, promised an evening of such magical moments. The fact that that magic remained a 32-year-old, letter-perfect riff suggested something about the night's limits.

And though she's been gone for over a decade, the band misses Christine McVie. She was an anchor that, as a third frontperson, somehow bridged the gap between the veteran British blues men at the back of the stage and the two California kids up front. This incarnation had several additional musicians: jack of all trades Brett Tuggle playing McVie's keyboards and guitarist Neil Heywood giving Buckingham a little run for his money on "Stand Back." The band also had three back-up singers, including Nicks's sister-in-law Lori Nicks. But the show felt primarily like a celebration of the history of Stevie Nicks and Lindsay Buckingham -- a little canned, but mighty impressive all the same.

Photos by: Forester Michael

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