Sunday, November 22, 2009

(REVIEW) FLEETWOOD MAC GLASGOW by: BRYAN DUNCAN

Review: Fleetwood Mac @ SECC
Written by Bryan Duncan

REUNION tours have become a fashion recently, some more welcome than others, but only a band as dysfunctional as Fleetwood Mac could reunite once again, just five years after their last tour.

After a 42 year history of guitarists joining religious cults, substance abuse, radical musical shifts and inter-band affairs, it‘s amazing that they still play together. Guitarist/singer/pop maestro Lindsay Buckingham tells the Glasgow audience that the band have never really broken up, highlighting that it’s been different every time they’ve “reunited”. This runs parallel with the band’s relationships: despite divorces and break-ups, they managed to create arguably the perfect pop album, 1977’s Rumours (see this edition of the Telegraph’s Classic Album). Before breaking into the LP’s first track “Second Hand News” - one of the highlights of the night - Buckingham describes the song as “sad, angry and humourous”, written at a time where the band went through “emotional turmoil”. You could see the ghosts of the past etched on his face, as he performs alongside ex-girlfriend Stevie Nicks, and founding rhythm section John McVie and Mick Fleetwood.

Despite this, the band created an energy undermining any tension, as “Monday Morning” kicked off the gig with its radio-friendly soft-rock. Next up was “The Chain”, a classic in which McVie’s famous bass line (used as BBC’s Formula 1 theme tune) literally rumbles through the SECC, complementing Fleetwood’s thundering drums. Singer Nicks asks to “get this party started,” as “Dreams” and “Gypsy” shows her knack for writing polished pop tunes.

Their flawless nature does not match the intense nature of the band, but the acoustic numbers dig a lot deeper with “Big Love”, a personal song by Buckingham which he states “describes the person I was back in 1987”.

With a wave of jaw-dropping guitar picking washing over his raw but impassioned vocals, it cements his status as one of rock’s most underrated guitarists. A mellower version of “Never Going Back Again” follows a melodic “Landslide” sung delicately by Nicks. It shows how their songs float between light and dark, and how deep lyrics lie behind the pop exterior.

Some dismiss them for being middle-of-the road, but songs like “Gold Dust Woman”, show a level of music transcending their soft-rock persona. Ten minute guitar solos and raw blues rock dominated the latter half of the concert, on songs like “I’m So Afraid” and “Oh Well” - the latter a song hand-picked from the Peter Green era. Buckingham’s inner guitar god was again unleashed to the crowd.

An epic “World Turning” featured an ambitious drum solo from Mick Fleetwood, and at moments like this you forgot what you came to see; perfect pop-rock or grass-roots blues.

As the night drew on eager fans left their seats and became a collective in front of the stage, showing that Fleetwood Mac still have a spark in their live performances with songs like “Go Your Own Way”, despite burning out through the years. Of this classic Rumours line-up, Christine McVie was the only absent member, deciding to take retirement over touring. This didn’t diminish the set, but Rumours favourites like “Songbird” would be impossible to replicate without her.

With or without McVie, the Mac certainly sounded like they were back. Buckingham cheekily hinted at a new studio effort, as he declared for this tour “we haven’t made an album for this…yet”.

As Nicks and Buckingham embraced near the end, it seemed as though a sombre cloud was hanging over the stage. Their history is so complicated it makes the uplifting closer “Don’t Stop” deliciously ironic. Granted, there is still a tension, but as the ever enthusiastic Mick Fleetwood signs off the gig by asking the crowd to look after one another in “this crazy world we live in”, it stands as testament to this legendary band’s enduring, albeit rocky, relationship. This is how a reunion should be.

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