By Dave Paulson
Considering the famously turbulent past and volatile chemistry of iconic rock band Fleetwood Mac, it appears that the stars, thankfully, are aligned for the group's current tour.
Drummer Mick Fleetwood says the "Unleashed" concert tour — the group's first in five years — has been blessed with a unique energy within the band and, according to him, a stronger connection with the audience than ever before.
Part of that surely has to do with the band's set list. The "Unleashed" tour is a first for Fleetwood Mac, as it isn't in support of any new album (their last, Say You Will, was released in 2003). Instead, Fleetwood, singer Stevie Nicks, guitarist Lindsey Buckingham and bassist John McVie have been turning in evenings of wall-to-wall classics ("Dreams" and "Go Your Own Way" among them, of course) along with a crop of cuts that have rarely been played live.
Good luck finding time for a bathroom break when the band plays tonight at Nashville's Sommet Center. A strikingly kind and chatty Mick Fleetwood found time to speak with us about the tour while on the road.
Your concert in Nashville is one that was added as an extension of your tour. Can we take that as a sign that the tour has gone well?
My joke with Fleetwood Mac is that it's the worst-run rock 'n' roll franchise in the business. We don't really work much, and when we do, we hope that everything's going to be in place, and the audience is going to be in place. Trusting Fleetwood Mac's perfect timing — not — we wait for 5 1/2 years and go out in a huge recession. But amazingly, it's been absolutely fantastic.
This "Unleashed" tour, as you've said, marks the first time without a new album to support. How does that affect the band's set list?
What we did was craft a set with more space because we're not featuring four or five songs off a (new) album and shoving it down people's throats, going, "Look what we've done." In truth, artistically, you're always going to do that, but when you look at it objectively, it's a little self-serving, in a way.
We've often gotten so excited about a new album that we do too many new songs, and you go, "Well, (the audience doesn't) know the songs," and it does affect a show. This time, we haven't had that in the mix, so what we chose was to do some songs that we know that people love for sure, and then some songs like "Storms," for instance, that we've never done (live).
Audiences might be happy to hear more of your older tunes, but how does the band stay satisfied? How do you make this feel fresh for yourselves?
Well, you have to understand that we've never done this. This is actually a new system.
We're getting off on this extra (connection) that seems to exist between the band and the audience. It's really interesting. I think we're always fairly connected to our audiences, just because people inherently know too much about us, quite frankly (laughs), as people . . .
We're doing songs that we've never done or haven't done in so long, they might as well be new songs. We haven't done "Oh Well" in over 30 years, and now Lindsey's ripping "Oh Well" unbelievably. Of course, me and John are like pigs in (mud) being able to play one of the old songs that came from the Peter Green era of Fleetwood Mac.
Numerous reviews of recent shows are complimentary of the band's energy on stage — physical and otherwise. Have you noticed this energy yourself?
There is a really vibrant vibe on stage. You can't bottle it. It either happens or it doesn't. . . . Our live performance has always been really different on stage to the crafting of our albums. I think that's interesting to an audience. There are bands out there where you go, "Yeah, (the concert) was great, but it was just like putting the album on." It was so unbelievably cool, or delivered in such a metered way that it didn't come to life.
We're on the edge, or I certainly am on the edge of (messing) a drum fill up (laughs), but you get this weird tension that has a charm to it, and I think that works for us.
You mentioned touring in a recession earlier — did this make anyone in the band nervous when plotting the tour?
I don't think anyone was majorly (apprehensive). I probably think about that stuff more than anyone else in the band because I'm a news freak, a conspiracy theorist and God knows what else. So I'm going, "Oh my God, this is so not the right time to be doing this, but we're doing it."
It wasn't very long-lit, but it did cross my mind, and I think it crossed everybody's mind. All we had to reach on was, "Remember, in the Great Depression, the movie business did really well."
Stevie, pretty much every night — and she means it — says, "I am so overjoyed that you chose us to come and see." We've had a great run and it has always been good. People seem to be going away really happy, and when we do this, that's what we want to hear.
IF YOU GO
What: Fleetwood Mac
When: 8pm tonight
Where: NASHVILLE - Sommet Center (501 Broadway, 770-2000)