Going their own way along an endless road
THE addition of Californian duo Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham to the rhythm section of Mick Fleetwood and John McVie transformed Fleetwood Mac from a tight blues outfit to one of the outstanding pop successes of the 1970s. Far from curtailing the band's creativity, the tumult of intra-band affairs and substance abuse that characterised Fleetwood Mac at the time provided the fuel for some of pop music's most enduring tracks.
Now into its fifth decade, Fleetwood Mac was in Melbourne to begin the Australian leg of its Unleashed world tour. Opening with Monday Morning from 1975's Fleetwood Mac, the group was true to its promise for a show replete with classic hits.
Dressed in black and wearing platform boots with her trademark tassels, Nicks projected a gothic-boho visual aesthetic. Despite some warbling renditions of her signature tracks, Rhiannon, Gypsy and Dreams, Nicks remains a charismatic stage performer, and the theatrical antics that heralded the finale of Gold Dust Woman attracted wild applause from the crowd.
Clad in black britches, tights, white shirt, waist-coat and with bells dangling from his belt, Fleetwood looked more like a Morris dancer than a seasoned blues veteran. On bass McVie was typically enigmatic, his bass playing a model of elegance and precision.
While the rhythm section of Fleetwood and McVie is as precise as it was in the band's blues era of yore, it was Buckingham's frequent stadium rock-sized guitar solos that stole the show. In tracks such as Second Hand News, I Know I'm Not Wrong and Go Your Own Way Buckingham relived the drama of his break-up with Nicks.
The rest of the band filed into the wings, leaving Buckingham centre stage for an acoustic version of Big Love from 1987's Tango in the Night. Nicks returned to join him for Landslide, before Fleetwood and McVie returned to the stage for the rarely performed Storms.
In World Turning Fleetwood entertained the crowd with an extended drum solo punctuated with shrieking chants, before the first encore concluded with the perennial baby boomer anthem Don't Stop. The night ended on a softer note as Nicks led the band through the ballad-like Silver Springs.
The continuing absence of vocalist and keyboard player Christine McVie ensured this was never going to be a perfect Fleetwood Mac show. But it was a night full of hits, and for that we could excuse the lingering sense of self-indulgence that remains synonymous with Fleetwood Mac.
Fleetwood Mac play December 5 at Hope Estate Winery, NSW, December 7 and 8 at Acer Arena in Sydney, December 11 and 12 at Members Equity Stadium, Perth and December 15 at the Brisbane Entertainment Centre.