Wednesday, May 06, 2009

REVIEW: Fleetwood Mac Live in St. Louis "Time cast its spell on you, but you won't forget me"

Fleetwood Mac at the Scottrade Center, May 5
By Christian Schaeffer

Fleetwood Mac ended its concert Tuesday night with "Silver Springs," a Rumours-era b-side that has become a fan favorite. In the song's chorus, Stevie Nicks unloads what may be her best lyrical quatrain:

"Time cast its spell on you, but you won't forget me
I know I could have loved you but you would not let me
I'll follow you down til the sound of my voice will haunt you
You'll never get away from the sound of a woman that loves you."

Now, it's easy to look at Fleetwood Mac songs through the prism of the complicated interpersonal relationships that the band mates shared through the years: she has to be singing about singer/guitarist Lindsey Buckingham, doesn't she? And while this interpretation is probably correct, at last night's show it seemed that Nicks was not just singing to her ex-lover, but to an arena full of her fans as well. Despite long absences from the road, we'll never get away from Fleetwood Mac, from these alternately mystical and punchy songs of love gone wrong and the perseverance it takes to muddle through it.

Fleetwood Mac made a pretty good case for its continued longevity during its 23-song set at the Scottrade Center. Now touring without longtime keyboardist and songwriter Christine McVie, the band of four -- Nicks, Buckingham, bassist John McVie and drummer Mick Fleetwood -- presented its "Hits Unleashed" tour as a chance to run through the group's many hits and some of its lesser-known album cuts. And while it's likely that the inclusion of these deep cuts (including several gems from 1979 double-album Tusk) were stand-ins for Christine McVie's missing contributions, I was surprised at how little her songs were missed from the overall set.

From the rollicking opening of the set-starting "Monday Morning," it became clear that the night would belong to Buckingham, who's boundless energy, high-watt guitar solos and undiminished voice served as benchmarks for the concert. His command of the microphone and his guitar continued with "The Chain," with its foot-stomping chorus reverberating through the crowded arena. If Buckingham didn't throw his whole heart into these performances, the success of the show would be almost unthinkable.

The magic of Fleetwood Mac has always centered on the interplay between Buckingham and Nicks -- not just their storied romantic past but in their differing on-stage personalities and styles of composition. Last night, Nicks remained slightly aloof and didn't work as hard to engage the crowd as her counterpart, but her turns on lead vocals retained the smoky, sensual qualities that helped make her an icon. She no longer even bothers reaching for the high notes, which is a wise move: on songs like "Dreams" and "Sara," she modulated to a lower octave and the trio of female back-up singers filled in the gaps.

While her voice is still magnetic, Nicks' stage presence toed the line between sexy and ridiculous. She changed outfits at least five times, swapping out one sequined, flowing dress for another, and her gauzy, back-lit shimmies and shakes were a long way from her "Dance of the Seven Veils" routine from the '70s.

The set list was tailored to deliver the hits while sneaking in a few deep cuts as well; by and large, this was a success. Buckingham tore through Tusk's "I Know I'm Not Wrong" with jangly aplomb, and the moody "Storms" (which made its live debut this tour) was given an acoustic overhaul.

The band even pointed back to its roots as a blues-rock band, playing the Peter Green-penned "Oh Well" in all its Led Zepplin-aping glory. And while no one onstage mentioned the absence of Christine McVie, they did a lovely version of her best song, "Say You Love Me," with Nicks and Buckingham trading vocals. Both Nicks and Buckingham had a chance to play some of their solo work: Lindsay played "Go Insane" early in the set, and Stevie got the crowd dancing to "Stand Back," which set the stage for the set-closing "Go Your Own Way," the only true on-your-feet moment of the show.

In the end, it's hard to know what to say about a show like this, other than Fleetwood Mac delivered exactly what they promised and exactly what could reasonably be expected from them 35 years after its hey-day. The songs still sound good, and so do the musicians playing them.

Reporter's Notebook:

-The band took the stage to the sound of croaking tree-frogs (perhaps taking a cue from Neko Case's album-ending track?) and took their positions in near-darkness. It was a little anti-climactic.

-The merch-sellers were offering Fleetwood Mac tambourines, which is the worst fucking idea ever in the history of merch sales. A woman about 100 feet in front of me kept shaking hers throughout the show. I normally don't think murder is ever justified, but last night I may have shifted my position.

-Mick Fleetwood was dressed in a black vest, white shirt, tailor pants, black stockings and red felt shoes, making him look like an overgrown English school boy. And he had his famous dangling gold balls around his waist, just like the cover to Rumours.

-Stevie Nicks decided that a top hat was appropriate headgear for the set-closing "Go Your Own Way." Who's gonna argue with her logic?

-Lindsey and Stevie paired off for two acoustic songs, "Landslide" and "Never Going Back Again."

-Stevie appears to have reworked the lyrics to her classic "Rhiannon." Not sure if this is a new development or not.

Set List:
1. "Monday Morning"
2. "The Chain"
3. "Dreams"
4. "I Know I'm Not Wrong"
5. "Gypsy"
6. "Go Insane"
7. "Rhiannon"
8. "Second Hand News"
9. "Tusk"
10. "Sara"
11. "Big Love" (Lindsey Buckingham solo)
12. "Landslide" (Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham)
13. "Never Going Back Again" (Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham)
14. "Storms"
15. "Say You Love Me"
16. "Gold Dust Woman"
17. "Oh Well"
18. "I'm So Afraid"
19. "Stand Back"
20. "Go Your Own Way"
Encore #1
21. "World Turning"
22. "Don't Stop"
Encore #2
23. "Silver Springs"


Anonymous said...

mick fleetwood in the best drumer ever..and fleetwood mac is still the best...The best concert I've ever been to

Anonymous said...

Sounds like this reporter doesn't know Fleetwood Mac too well. Top hat on Go Your Own Way and "reworking" of Rhiannon and the look of Mick is classic. However, I agree about the tambourines... and I'm a die-hard.

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