Tuesday, October 01, 2013

Review: Fleetwood Mac Flirts, Revives ‘Rumours’ on Tour ★★★★★ Stars "Buckingham’s guitar playing is a wonder"

Fleetwood Mac Live in Birmingham
Sunday, September 30, 2013 - LG Arena
by Robert Heller

Fleetwood Mac’s tour is a triumph of inspirational rock, new songs and band hugs.

The band that created “Rumours,” a classic album of impeccable 1970s rock, was always likely to deliver the songs and the playing. The group’s history of divorces, disagreements and excess made the hugs less certain.

The tour features four of the key musicians from “Rumours”: Mick Fleetwood on drums, John McVie on bass, Stevie Nicks on vocals and Lindsey Buckingham on vocals and guitar.

There’s always the chance of an appearance by McVie’s ex-wife Christine, who turned up on stage last week at London’s O2 for the first time in 14 years for an encore of “Don’t Stop.”

They’re aided by two additional musicians and two backing singers. The set draws primarily on mid-1970s albums “Fleetwood Mac,” “Rumours” and “Tusk.”
The band bonhomie isn’t immediately obvious. Buckingham sings “Second Hand News” and “The Chain” with grit and snarl. The latter’s bassline is as mean as ever.

Nicks is dressed in a long black skirt and black velvet top. A tambourine, strewn with flowing ribbons, is draped on her arm. (Buckingham is dressed in utilitarian blue jeans and a black leather jacket.) Her voice is simple and unadorned, more folk than soul, full of emotional nuance and subtle phrasing.

“Sad Angel,” a chirpy new song from this year’s “Extended Play” EP, is easily enjoyable. Buckingham talks about the band’s return to the studio, hinting at new recordings: “There are quite a few more chapters left in the book of Fleetwood Mac.”

Eloquent Anger

The demented riffs on “Tusk” bristle with an eloquent anger that would not be out of place at a psychology clinic.

Usually the acoustic section is a signal to head to the bar. Not with Fleetwood Mac. Buckingham sings “Big Love” armed only with an acoustic guitar. His performance generates a raw electricity that electronic-dance artists would melt their synthesizer circuitry to deliver.

Nicks sings “Landslide” with her ex-boyfriend Buckingham behind her shoulder. Their dynamic is thick with the flirtation of musical communion.

With a recurring set list for the shows, the rest of the concerts are a whirl of pop-rock pleasure. Fleetwood’s drumming provides the mid-tempo beats with a volcanic power while McVie’s bass playing is supple. (Both are dressed in white shirts and black waistcoats.)

Buckingham’s guitar playing is a wonder, bringing flamenco dexterity to acoustic numbers.

After the quiet of “Say Goodbye,” Mick Fleetwood comes to the front of the stage to thank both the band and the audience with 1970s sentiments and a pristine English accent.

“Be kind to one another,” he says. “We love you very much. And remember: The Mac is back!”

Rating: *****.


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