Fleetwood Mac Live
Manchester Arena - October 27, 2009
By Dave Simpson
"This band have a complex emotional history," begins guitarist Lindsey Buckingham, hinting at Fleetwood Mac's rollercoaster of bedhopping, cocaine, mental illness and religious cults, which is almost as famous as their music. While the antics (and some members) have been lost to the years, the music, particularly 1977's mega-selling Rumours, still defines AOR cool and inspires current acts, not least Bat for Lashes.
Without a new album to promote, the Mac are choosing songs for "fun": nothing from 2003's underwhelming Say You Will, but rather a fantasy setlist from their ravishing back catalogue. After a tumultuous The Chain, a hallucinatory Dreams and a wistful Gypsy, the band charge into Rhiannon, Sara and a drumming-led Tusk. It feels like seeing off an army only to face bigger cannons coming over the hill.
The songs don't sound exactly as they did. With leather-jacketed Buckingham – the band's Clash fan – seemingly on a mission to prove the band remain relevant, the AOR sheen has been stripped away to reveal the emotional turmoil and even anger that inspired them. The delicate counterpoint is the ethereal Stevie Nicks, whose dulcet tones cast a spell. The hug between her and lost-love Buckingham might be scripted, but it nonetheless seems as poignant as Landslide's lyrics about "getting older".
In two and a half hours, there isn't a dull moment. Highlights are a dark Gold Dust Woman and a Buckingham guitar rampage, delivered to a standing ovation. Fans of the Mac's 1960s blues-rock incarnation are sent into raptures when the band pile into Oh Well, so electrifying it could power a small town. As an exultant Mick Fleetwood puts it: "The Mac are back!"