Thursday, June 11, 2009

(REVIEW) Fleetwood Mac Live in Baltimore June 10, 2009

Fleetwood Mac at 1st Mariner Arena
Baltimore Sun
by: Chris Kaltenbach

Fleetwood Mac played an energetic two-hour-plus set of their greatest hits at the 1st Mariner Arena Wednesday night, clearly revelling in their status as elder rock statesmen with a boatload of crowd-pleasing standards to play for their fans.

With Lindsay Buckingham playing the role of guitar god to the hilt and Stevie Nicks basking in her role as spiritual muse, the band relied almost exclusively on songs from their monster-selling Fleetwood Mac (1975) and Rumours (1977) albums.

The result was an evening that seemed strangely stuck in time, but in the best of ways. The fans ate it up, and didn't even seem to mind it when the band dragged out two of the hoariest '70s concert cliches, the extended (and defiantly excessive) guitar and drum solos.

Opening with "Monday Morning," from Fleetwood Mac, the band quickly set the evening's tone. Buckingham played shamelessly to the crowd, pointing, cajoling, jumping up and down, making like a whirling dervish able to lay down some fairly vicious guitar licks, yet never removing the leather jacket, no matter how much the sweat came pouring down ...

Nicks, meanwhile, swayed gently on the other side of the stage, adding harmonies and putting out the same mystical hippie aesthetic that made her a charming anomaly even 30 years ago. When Nicks took over the lead vocals for her "Dreams," the crowd greeted her like an old friend.

Drummer Mick Fleetwood, meanwhile, hammered-away with his bat-size drumsticks. Melodically, the sound they made was a little heavy sometimes, but Fleetwood's never been known for his subtlety. Bassist John McVie, meanwhile, unobtrusively went about his business, rarely calling attention to himself, content simply to drive the evening's beat like nobody's business.

The set included a fascinating take on "Tusk," with Fleetwood's incessantly propulsive downbeat making up for the USC marching band that wasn't there. Although she also wasn't there, Christine McVie was hardly absent, thanks to hard-edged renditions (maybe harder-edged than McVie would have liked) of two of her best songs, "Say You Love Me" and the encore of the challengingly optimistic "Don't Stop."

Buckingham, meanwhile, tore through a version of "Go Your Own Way" (from Rumours) that suggested the hurt feelings in the song haven't entirely gone away -- one reason why it was no nice to see him and Nicks embrace so warmly at one point. Maybe, like the band members said in interviews leading up to the current tour, these shows really are all about celebrating a legacy, and leaving past frictions behind.

Fleetwood Mac, Buckingham admitted during one of the show's many spoken introductions, has had a "complex and convoluted emotional history. But in the long run, it worked to our benefit."

The band's miscues were few, and easily overlooked. As befits performers moving past 60, the energy level wavered at times.

Fleetwood couldn't keep up the same manic beat that fueled "Go Your Own Way" on record -- even though Buckingham's guitar didn't seem to notice its absence. That made the song sound peculiarly schizophrenic, as though it didn't really know which pace to follow. And Nicks started off slowly, rarely even attempting the sustained pitch that once punctuated her best songs. Still, her voice warmed as the evening proceeded, and when, toward the end of the set, she finally appeared wearing her trademark black top hat, the evening's welcome nostalgia trip was complete.

Photos by Kevin Winter/Getty Images

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