Saturday, May 09, 2009

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

Photos by Chris Cummins/Special to The Star

The version of Fleetwood Mac that visited the Sprint Center on Friday isn't the best-known of the band's many versions. Without Christine McVie playing keyboards and singing some of her everlasting pop songs and love ballads, the Fleetwood Mac that is out on the road today isn't the one everyone remembers most. Nonetheless, it can still indulge an arena filled with rabid fans thirsty for a big dose of nostalgia.

For more than two and a half hours Friday, they played a setlist loaded with hits and favorites -- 23 songs in all. Most were from the trilogy of mega-platinum albums released in 1975-79: "Fleetwood Mac," "Rumours" and "Tusk. "With help from three background singers, an extra guitarist and a keyboardist, they made everything sound a lot like it did more than 30 years ago.

The rhythm section hasn't changed since the band was founded in the 1960s as a British rock-blues band: John McVie and Mick Fleetwood are still keeping time (and still wearing the black vests over white shirts). But this version of the band has become the Lindsey & Stevie show. Both implicitly and explicity, the show emphasized their tempestuous long-term relationship, both professional and personal.

Before she sang "Gypsy," Nicks recalled the first time she met him back in 1965. After "Sara," they posed for a long moment in an odd embrace: he leaning his head on her shoulder, she with her back to him. During "Storm," they looked hard at each other as they sang, "Not all the prayers in the world could save us." And they re-entered the stage for the two encores holding hands, like a teenage couple.

But all that was just window dressing for an event that showcased two things primarily: The band's enormous catalog of hits; and Lindsey Buckingham's dazzling work on the guitar. He makes a noise that is like no one elses, using only his bloodthirsty fingers, at times hammering out his own rhythms with his thumb and playing leads over them. His voice these days is still in remarkably good shape, even when he has to howl through a song like "Go Your Own Way."

Nicks isn't the twirling gypsy-witch she used to be. These days, she dances in parentheses (as a quiet afterthought), and her voice has dropped at least an octave. Still, she can carry all her tunes and add some nice harmonies to Buckingham's lead vocals. They sang the Christine McVie hit "Say You Love Me," and made it sound like some kind of Everly Brothers tune.

The place was nearly full and loud, all night. The crowd was decidedly boomer-heavy, but there were plenty of fans 30-something and younger, too, a sign of how all these songs have taken root in younger generations. It's hard to imagine a band these days putting out records like this one did: Fans know the words to every track; and every song feels like a hit.

There were one or two lulls. "Storms" prompted a flood of traffic up the aisles. So did Fleetwood's long drum solo during "Oh Well," the traditional nod to the band's blues roots. He is looking wizened and wizardly these days, his white beard giving him a strong Dumbeldor resemblance. (He wears a long black cape off stage and has his own cape attendent, like James Brown.)

The highlights: The first four songs, each setting off its own detonation of cheers and singing. Buckingham's guitar play on "Never Going Back Again." "Tusk," in which keyboardist Brett Tuggle sufficiently re-created the sounds of the USC marching band. "I'm So Afraid," which ended like it always does: with Buckingham stirring up some wildfire on guitar. "Landslide," in which Nicks took back the song from everyone who ever covered it poorly (especially Billy Corgan). And "Go Your Own Way," which ignited the most mania of any song all night.

They ended with three encores: "World Turning," a raucous rendition of "Don't Stop" and then an anti-climactic "Silver Springs." Most of the crowd stuck around till the end, however, though some had been in the place for nearly four hours.

And it's worth mentioning that after the show, some of them showed up in the line outside the nearby Czar Bar, which was filled to capacity with lots of young music scenesters. Inside a tribute band was playing Fleetwood Mac songs.

| Timothy Finn, The Star

Setlist: Monday Morning, The Chain, Dreams, I Know I'm Not Wrong, Gypsy, Go Insane, Rhiannon, Second-Hand News, Tusk, Sara, Big Love, Landslide, Never Going Back Again, Storms, Say You Love Me, Gold Dust Woman, Oh Well, I'm So Afraid, Stand Back Go Your Own Way. Encore: World Turning, Don't Stop, Silver Springs.

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