Monday, June 08, 2009

REVIEW: Fleetwood Mac Salt Lake City Mac Attack

Mac attack is back
The demise of Fleetwood Mac's "Rumours" has been greatly exaggerated.

The material on the Mac's seminal album, recorded over 30 years ago during a period of intense intra-band emotional turmoil, still resonates today -- as evidenced by Wednesday's concert at EnergySolutions Arena.

With no new album to plug, Fleetwood Mac took a full lower bowl of fans -- the upper section of the arena was curtained off -- on a memorable two-and-a-half-hour journey through the band's greatest hits, with a few select album cuts thrown in for good measure.

It was no surprise then that "Rumours," the band's 1977 album that sold more than 17 million copies and spent over 130 weeks on the charts, received the greatest amount of attention in Wednesday's set, with eight songs claiming ties to that record. The album is clearly a classic and Fleetwood Mac, just as clearly, continues to breathe new life into them live.

Namesakes Mick Fleetwood (drums) and John McVie (bass) may be the historical and rhythmic backbone of Fleetwood Mac, seeing as how they are the only two constants in the band's 40-plus years history, but Lindsey Buckingham (guitars, vocals) and Stevie Nicks (vocals, tambourine and spellbound dancing) are the heart and soul. Besides the whole Buckingham/Nicks romantic dissolution that provided the lyrical fodder for many of the band's biggest hits, the pair remain the main focal point for live performances.

Buckingham and Nicks don't shy away from that connection on stage -- indeed they seem to go out of their way to play it up for the crowd. The two were the last members to take the stage Wednesday, pointedly walking out hand-in-hand to assume their positions in front -- a move they duplicated at the start of both encore segments.

In a sly nod, the band opened with "Monday Morning" -- the very first song on the 1975 album "Fleetwood Mac," which marked the debut of Buckingham and Nicks in the group. Traditional concert opener "The Chain" followed and set the tone for an enchanting evening.

For starters, it must be pointed out that Buckingham may be one of the most criminally underrated guitarists of his generation. Whether it is due to Fleetwood Mac being best known for its more pop-oriented fare or slick album production, Buckingham's guitar prowess is seriously lacking in recognition. Whatever the reason, he must be seen live to be truly appreciated.

Watching him Wednesday, it was driven home that many of his most dynamic solos do not come in quick minute bursts in the middle of songs -- where most guitarists insert their flashiest solo work -- but rather appear in extended passages that close out tunes with a building, blistering conclusion.

There was not a better example of this than "I'm So Afraid" -- which features a frenetic five-minute guitar clinic by Buckingham to close out the song. "I Know I'm Not Wrong," "Second Hand News" and "Go Your Own Way" also featured great rideout solos by Buckingham.

Besides being Buckingham's emotional foil, Nicks brings an ethereal presence to the mix with her lyrical poetry, sultry vocals and somewhat mystical stage presence and twirling dance moves. Rocking her flowing dresses, knee-high boots, various shawls and, at one point, a top hat, Nicks belted out classics like "Dreams," "Rhiannon," "Sara," "Landslide," "Gold Dust Woman" and her own hit single "Stand Back."

Buckingham and Nicks also offered extended introductions to several songs, taking the time to detail some of the history behind them. Nicks provided the most interesting intro -- for the song "Gypsy" -- by recalling the years 1963-65, when she was a teenager living in Salt Lake City. Her father's work, however, forced the family to relocate to California.

"I was devastated," Nicks told the crowd. "I really loved Salt Lake."

But California is where she met Buckingham, eventually joining his band. That band made only one road trip -- which happened to be to Salt Lake City.

"We drove in Lindsey's Skylark," Nicks said, noting that their band opened for Leon Russell and Quicksilver Messenger at the old Terrace Ballroom, and then returned to immerse itself in the vibrant San Francisco music scene. "Ten years later, I wrote this song to capture those memories."

Christine McVie (keyboard and vocals) is the one missing member of the band's core lineup, having retired in 1998. Fleetwood Mac didn't ignore her material Wednesday, performing "Say You Love Me" and "Don't Stop." On both songs, Buckingham and Nicks handled one verse each vocally, before dueting on the third verse.

A pair of album gems included "Oh Well," from 1969, and "Storms," off the experimental double album, "Tusk," the followup to "Rumours." Nicks said "Storms" had never been played live by the band before this tour.

The rocking "Go Your Own Way" closed the main set and "Silver Springs" was a great choice to end the entire evening. "Silver Springs," though it did not officially appear on "Rumours," was the B side to hit single "Go Your Own Way." It first surfaced on record with the 1997 live album, "The Dance."

There are rumblings that the band will return to the studio to work on new material once this tour is over. Fans hope those hints prove to be more than "Rumours."

Doug Fox
Daily Herald

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