Wednesday, October 02, 2013

Review: Fleetwood Mac Live in Manchester: "Three hour tour de force of anger, pain, love and stunning music"

Fleetwood Mac Live in Manchester, UK
October 1, 2013 - Phones 4U Arena

A friend of mine told me that if I thought the London shows were wild... wait for Manchester!  Turns out she was right!

Not sure at what point in the show this happened, but someone in the crowd within earshot of Stevie shouted out "We fu**ing love you Stevie" to which Lindsey replied with the same comment...and Stevie replied with "I Fu**ing love you too! It's a Fu**ing affair!" - but prior to this Stevie gets quite stern with a heckler in the audience asking: "can I finish the story or do I have to come down there and beat the hell out of you" Then tells them to "be quite for a minute".  Then in Stevie's goodbye message to the audience right at the end of the show, Stevie stated: "YOUR A ROCKING GREAT FU**ING AUDIENCE!!"...then covered her mouth and said "Just know I've never said that on stage ever". Exciting night!!.... Check out the video snippet on Tumblr

Full "Without You" Intro - Funny stuff!!

Photos by Ellisroger: VIEW GALLERY - 9 Photos
Fleetwood mac live @ phones4u arena, manchester 1st october 2013
by Jimmy Coultas'

Jimmy Coultas’ review of the return of rock and roll’s tempestuous behemoth to the live arena.

Music is becoming increasingly shorn of its legends. You can blame the internet, Simon Cowell, genetically modified food or any one of another myriad of reasons, but in the wider consensus there are few artists and bands that straddle the stratosphere of greatness quite like they used to. One group though that do, back catalogue basing at least, is Fleetwood Mac.

Rock Music’s most alluring soap opera, Fleetwood Mac’s near five decade spanning career has included what is essentially two different bands with the same backbone, a cavalcade of affairs and in-loving (and fighting), and some of the most apocalyptic drug meltdowns popular culture has ever witnessed. In the midst of all that, and mainly because of it all, they created some of the most beautifully evocative material in Popular Music history, an almost never ending list of albums and songs etched onto the hearts of millions across the globe.

Many have mused what the sixties and seventies would have been like amid the social networking era of late (Lynyrd Skynyrd sniping with Neil Young over 140 characters would certainly have been interesting), but this was a group that fleshed out the breakdowns and arguments very much in public. Their 1977 colossus Rumours (stream below on Spotify) bristles beautifully to expose the lies, infidelity and paranoia that eclipsed the in-fighting and tempestuous relationships of the group at that point, a triumph borne of the ashes from the combustion of what happens when ego, sexual desire and a truckload of narcotics collide.

2013 has marked the return of the Mac to the live arena, and it hasn’t come cheap. Tickets were exchanging hands for amounts well into three figures beforehand, and with an audience at the Phones4U arena spanning young adults right up to pensioners, the appeal certainly hasn’t dimmed across the ages. The question is whether they still can cut the mustard.

At first it seems that the cost and sheer scale of the process might be overblown. Their entrance isn’t quite injected with the level of fanfare their reputation deserves, the group quickly blustering through ‘Second Hand News’. The sharp twangs punctuate brilliantly but with no real great vocal presence from the group’s eponymous frontman Lindsey Buckingham, and straight away there’s this slight sense that they may be weighed down by age and expectation

The second performance subverts that theory, but even though we knew it from the widely published setlist beforehand, there’s still tangible disappointment in hearing ‘The Chain’ so early. The tremendous intro, all folksy foreboding and Americana drenched menace, hurtles into the foreground before slowly picking up the pace and finally disintegrating into that infamous bassline. It’s thrillingly absorbing, but surely this would have worked better drawn out as an epic encore?

The next problem is the group’s enchantress Stevie Nicks’ voice. Whilst it would be unrealistic to expect it to retain the ethereal qualities of old, ‘Dreams’ follows on and she drifts almost incoherently in and out of focus, reducing one of the most enchanting records within their arsenal to the blasé. She’s similarly off kilter on ‘Rhiannon’, and with that dreaded bugbear of the iconic group’s live performance, new material, sandwiched in-between, there’s this sense that this is going to be an anodyne experience.

Those fears though are slowly assuaged. Buckingham imparts his relief that 1979’s critically mauled Tusk has since been viewed with a different light, and when they play the album’s title track it marks a sea change in the intensity of the concert. Suddenly on this carnal, animalistic hoedown of a record the raw power the group is evidently in focus, a brutal almost ugly blood rush of a song that causes the band to explode into our consensus.

Nicks too is now sharply jolted into the right groove, particularly when the romanticism of her relationship with Buckingham is bared so obviously for the first time. ‘Sara’ sees the duo singing together, and whilst it’s never known how much of the lingering looks and touching embraces are staged, that doesn’t stop them being lavishly lapped up by the audience. Either way, the shaky vibes of her earlier mishaps are blown away in a hugely transfixing performance, the catalyst for a blisteringly brilliant couple of hours.

Never to be outdone, Buckingham follows with arguably the standout moment of the entire show. Emerging alone, he talks about how the next record, taken from 1987’s blissfully short power punch opus Tango in the Night, was wrote at a point where he was scared to embrace something, the lyric of the track redolent of a man fearsome of being hurt after so many tarnished encounters with emotion.

That lyric is “Looking out for love”, and as the familiar refrain whittles in and out of a virtuoso rendition of ‘Big Love’ it is quite simply one of the most astounding five minutes of music this reviewer has ever witnessed. His frantic solo plucking adds a timeless zeal to what is essentially a very eighties slab of power rock, and the physical impact of him chanting side by side with his visceral twangs is mesmerising. It’s one of the true greats of rock at his glorious best.

The highlights then stack up. The touching gaze of love between the duo reappears on ‘Landslide’, and the stadium shaking rock of ‘Eyes of the World’ allows Mick Fleetwood’s powerhouse drumming to reverberate around the arena. Interspersed with it is the occasional monologue about the anguish that perforated their songwriting; they’re constantly playing on all the pain and it adds to the feeling of being very much engrossed in this never ending saga, regardless of the apparent resolutions.

Nicks continues her revitalisation with stunning aplomb when left to her own devices as well, the heartbreak echoing from her voice throughout ‘Gypsy’ before her status as a dark folk witch is ratified during an astounding 'Gold Dust Woman’, her turn as a pre-goth queen bedecked in gold shawl infused with desire that allows her to transcend her age.

‘Go Your Own Way’ sees the group leave the stage for the first time, a rambunctious parting shot that lifts everyone to their feet in unison. When they return it’s for an epic portrayal of ‘World Turning’ with Mick Fleetwood, who has been oddly adorning more and more clothing throughout like a manic human buckaroo, slipping into a trancelike state as he batters his drums. ‘Don’t Stop’ then follows, the group saying goodbye with Rumours’ most upbeat but no less acerbic song.

They return for two more songs, Rumours offcut ‘Silver Springs’ and the clichéd but appropriate ‘Say Goodbye’. By no means the most powerful or memorable record in the group’s arsenal, it serves as a poignant ending to a truly memorable showing, a triumph that somehow despite the searing feelings that have encapsulated the group they are still there, but with that lingering agony rippling throughout every note and word ushered through our ears. 

This wasn’t a perfect show by any stretch, the lack of Christine McVie’s counterpart lyricism (aside from ‘Don’t Stop’) and pop perfection voice dims the overall Mac experience, particularly due to the fact she has reunited (albeit briefly) with the band on certain tour dates (the above video shows her at an earlier date at the O2 arena in London). And whilst the opening troubles are quickly consigned it’s a shame that both ‘Dreams’ and ‘Rhiannon’ aren’t as evocative as they truly deserve to be.

Overall though that’s splitting hairs - this is a near three hour tour de force of anger, pain, love and stunning music that is arguably the most unflinchingly awkward experience of nostalgia you’ll ever witness. It’s part rock extravaganza, part fly on the wall therapy session, and wholly gripping entertainment that is as good value as the excessive pricing can create.

It’s unlikely we will ever see a group possessing such an innately human struggle as its artistic backbone quite like this, even less plausible they’ll deliver that story with such searing conviction in their twilight. Fleetwood’s final words sum it all up… “the Mac is Back”.


LANDSLIDE: Did Stevie dedicate Landslide to JC (John Courag) again tonight in Manchester? She dedicated the song to him in Birmingham on Sunday as well.



Unknown said...

absolutely fantastic gig!! they rocked it!! ♥

Anonymous said...

Got to love Stevie! She's so cute!

Jenny McDermott said...

Totally brilliant night - even Stevie's potty mouth!! Overjoyed when they did Sara - that's my all time favourite FM song. Also enjoyed Eyes Of The World, Not That Funny, Stand Back (of course), and Mick's new drum solo on World Turning. Brilliant, brilliant night. Please come to Liverpool - we have a lovely stadium you could blow the roof off! Do 2 nights (I could come to both), stay and see the sights!!

Anonymous said...

Saw them 2004, 2009 and now for the 3rd time at the 02. They have surpassed themselves. Stevie sounded the best ever and can never fault Lindsey's guitar playing. Mick rocked it too. They all rocked. THEY ARE THE BEST ! LOVE THEM.

Bearz3 said...

STEVIE!!!! Got a guitar-shaped bar of SOAP for ya!!!! LOL

Anonymous said...

Love when she's just herself. The tour is off to a great start in Europe.
I'm starting to think they'll do some more US dates next year.
Or go and finish the album!

Anonymous said...

I have to say this is a brilliant review - meaning firstly that I'm impressed by the eloquence, humor and perceptiveness of the writer, and secondly by the fact that I didn't see the Mac this time around (and I live within walking distance of the Hollywood Bowl), but I feel I've experienced the spirit of the show through the vividness of the writing. This is very good music writing - and it's sorely missed in America, where passion has seemingly died....

Anonymous said...

Wow - Lindsey really is as awesome as ever. Very impressed by BIG LOVE, which I really haven't paid attention to since THE DACNE - except appreciating the TANGO IN THE NIGHT version again. BIG LOVE was Fleetwood Mac's last really expensive video and Lindsey is very, very handsome in it. I've always loved the acoustic reinterpretation of the song, but was concerned that Lindsey's vocal range isn't what it was in 1987 or 1997. Lindsey's solution? Go back to Tusk. Sing it like Tusk. And his playing is astonishingly good - who can match his precision and speed, even among younger players. Lindsey's a true genius.

Natalie said...

Agree with the above - brilliant review. So enjoyable to read. Almost as wonderful as the music its reviewing. I got the feeling that the reviewer was fully present, and attentive to each moment of that concert.

Anonymous said...

I don't think this review is all that brilliant. Rock reviewers have been saying Stevie doesn't hit all the high notes since 1977. It is really nothing new, and at the age of 65, do they really think that matters to her fans? She is still on stage touring, and have been doing so for 38 years now. And she has probably performed more shows for more people than any other woman in the history of mankind. She sounds just fine considering the amount of time she has spent singing in front of audiences her whole career.

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