Sunday, April 21, 2013

Fleetwood Mac Comes to Prudential "The sound is tight, confident, aggressive"

Sunday, April 21, 2013
By Jim Beckerman - North Jersey

WHO: Fleetwood Mac.
WHEN: 8 p.m. Wednesday, April 24th
WHERE: Prudential Center, 25 Lafayette St., Newark; 973-757-6600, Ticketmaster or
HOW MUCH: $49.50 to $179.50.

Some bands have a fan base. Fleetwood Mac has a clone base.

There they were at Madison Square Garden April 8, as no doubt they will also be at Newark's Prudential Center this Wednesday: The Stevies.

These are women – mostly middle-aged, but then so was most of the audience – who style themselves after the witch goddess herself, Stevie Nicks. Translucent shawls, hippie hats, tons of fringe.

Stevie herself, when she appeared onstage in New York as part of the band's 34-city world tour, was dripping with fringe. Fringe cascaded off her mike stand. Ribbons dangled from her tambourine. Even Mick Fleetwood's drum kit seemed covered in the stuff. Conspicuous among his accessories was the bell tree: that fringe of dangling tubes, gently brushed by the player to create a sprinkling of musical fairy dust.

All very '70s – as were the trippy kaleidoscopic images and Rorschach blots projected behind the stage, and Mick Fleetwood's funky knee-pants. It was in 1977, of course, that "Rumours" became one of the most successful albums of all time (31 weeks on the charts, 40 million copies sold, the sixth best-selling album in U.S. history).

Kept its audience

Launched in 1967 and reaching its pinnacle of success in the late 1970s and '80s, Fleetwood Mac has easily carried its audience – mostly from the 1970s and '80s also – along with it into the 21st century. Along the way, they've created hits, including "Go Your Own Way" and "Don't Stop," that seem likely to last as long as anything in the short-attention-span-theater that is pop.

Above all, they have a mystique: an odd one, maybe, tied in with moony mysticism and 1970s excess, but still real. "Puh-leeze, Mummy," says a toddler in a 1980s Tom Wolfe cartoon, tugging on the sleeve of her trendy mom. "Nobody wants to hear about coke, Acapulco, or Fleetwood Mac."

It isn't every band that inspires such loyalty. It's worth asking why.

One reason is clearly Nicks herself. She's one of the first, though not the last, of the Earth-mother-goddess-oracle rock stars that become the obsession of a certain kind of fan.

From her, arguably, descend all the Tori Amoses, Sarah MacLachlans and Sheryl Crows, with their breakup songs and Delphic lyrics and gypsy occultism. Now 64, Nicks' voice is a bit huskier than when she first sang "Dreams" and "Rhiannon" back in the 1970s, but in a good way: It's a voice with character. It sounds lived-in.

The show Fleetwood Mac did at Madison Square Garden, the same one they will presumably be bringing to Prudential and the first they've done since 2009, is in some ways a greatest-hits compendium: most of "Rumours," much of "Tusk," a few new songs and a few seldom-heard old ones, including "Without You" (a love song, from Nicks to guitarist Lindsey Buckingham), written in the early 1970s, and "Sisters of the Moon," not performed since the early 1980s. But the sound is tight, confident, aggressive.

Apart from the band's signature Mamas & the Papas harmonies, which perhaps lack a bit from the significant absence of singer-keyboardist Christine McVie (she's sitting out this tour), it's hard to imagine the group sounding better.

It's not every band that has a front person as strong as Nicks, and she isn't even the only one. Guitarist Buckingham, also up front, anchors the band every bit as much. Fleetwood Mac is the sum of many parts: key to its impact, and reflective of the odd way the band formed.

It started in the late 1960s as a conventional British blues band, with drummer Mick Fleetwood and bassist John McVie (the Fleetwood and the Mac). Then it got cross-pollinated with Southern California-style pop when Nicks and Buckingham joined in 1975. Fleetwood Mac must be one of the few bona fide trans-Atlantic bands in pop history — half Brit, half American.

Lots of styles

The mix of personnel, and backgrounds, has led to an impressive range of sounds and styles. Fleetwood Mac can turn on a dime from bluegrass ("Never Going Back Again") to blues ("I'm So Afraid") to power pop ("Tusk," performed this tour with steamroller force, complete with faux horn section). There's room for Buckingham's superb finger-picking guitar ("Say Goodbye"), and also for an epic Mick Fleetwood drum solo ("World Turning")

To many fans, the drama onstage is augmented by the drama behind the scenes: who was married to whom (John McVie to Christine McVie), who was an on-again off-again couple (Nicks and Buckingham), and who caught whom on the rebound (Fleetwood, romancing Nicks).

No wonder Nicks spins around onstage. It's enough to make anyone dizzy.

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