Saturday, November 07, 2009

REVIEW: Fleetwood Mac Live in Sheffield November 2, 2009

NOVEMBER 2, 2009
Review by: Rob Peacock

Watching Fleetwood Mac shouldn’t be such a strange proposition. After 40 years, you know the songs, you know the people, you know the whole back-story about the break-ups and divorces. A Fleetwood Mac gig should be a good –rockin’ trip down memory lane.

And yet, here am I watchin old familiar faces crank out old familiar songs and not knowing what to make of it all.

The reason for this, I think, makes itself clear about two-thirds of the way through the main set when they break into Oh Well, a classic from their original 60s incarnation - they’re still (at least) two separate bands. Fleetwood and McVie are British blues boys to their core, never happier than when they’re allowed to let rip on a proper R ‘n’ B (in the 60s sense) groove. Buckingham and Nicks, on the other hand, are just a pair of hippy, trippy Californian interlopers, even now, 35 years after joining.

To further complicate matters, there’s the tension still apparent between Buckingham and Nicks, long after their romantic break-up. How much of this is put on for the crowds it’s hard to tell. They walk on stage holding hands, glance provocatively at each other during songs and, at one point, hug each other with huge dramatic effect. It may be staged, but the psychobabble with which they introduce their songs suggests, shall we say, that both may have a few issues still to work through.

It’s a band split along multiple lines and pulling in different directions. So who wins out? Well, the rhythm section only get to properly show off their skills on the aforementioned Oh Well, which is unfortunate, because Fleetwood looks at mad for it as ever. And yet, even Nicks is sidelined somewhat tonight. She floats on and off stage to huge applause and swirls her gypsy dress through numbers like Rhiannon and Landslide, but never quite captures the moment.

Instead, for the most part, it’s the Lindsey Buckingham show. He wasn’t in the pantheon of all-time guitar greats last time I checked, but no-one seems to have told the man himself this. Every time he gets the opportunity he’s down to the front of the stage, milking solos for all they’re worth. At one point towards the end of I’m So Afraid you think he’s never going to stop. He’s up at the top of the fretboard squeezing every last whine out of his instrument, pained expression on his face, sweat leaking through his t-shirt. If it weren’t for the strange way he hobbles around the stage, you’d swear this was a sixteen year old throwing his best rock star poses in front of the bedroom mirror.

It’s a shame Christine McVie didn’t make it along for the reunion to add yet another dimension to the performance. In fact, she might have balanced out Buckingham’s massive ego. Nonetheless, the four-piece Mac leave the diehards happy and if nothing else, you’re watching a classic rock band in which, unlike some others (step forward, Rolling Stones), creative tensions are very much still alive.

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