Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Las Vegas Review: Fleetwood Mac mines tangled past to capture the light

With the sky outside as black as her flowing dress, Stevie Nicks invited the night indoors.
By Jason Bracelin
Las Vegas Review-Journal

Photo by David Becker
View More Photos at Las Vegas Review-Journal
“I think we should just slip into darkness,” Nicks suggested by way of introducing “Dreams” on Monday night at the MGM Grand Garden Arena, setting up a song about love giving way to loneliness, a full heart to an empty bed.

A few numbers later, during “Rhiannon,” footage of a solar eclipse was shown on the large video screen that served as the backdrop of the otherwise unadorned stage, an apt visual metaphor for Fleetwood Mac.

As those images suggested, the sun hasn’t always shone on this bunch, its rays swallowed not by the passing moon, but by the band members’ once fractious relationships with each other.

By now, Fleetwood Mac’s past romantic entanglements with one another, gnarled as the roots of some old tree, are as well known as the songs they inspired, having catalyzed the overheated passions behind their most commercially successful record, 1977’s “Rumours,” an emotional mushroom cloud that’s sold over 20 million copies worldwide.

All these years later, the frustration and hurt that invigorated that album has been consoled, feelings mended. But the band still mines those emotions to an explosive degree on stage, harnessing the energy into their performances.

On Monday, with the band playing the final public performance of its current 63-date tour, Nicks’ voice sounded like something bottled decades ago and uncorked just for this occasion, exquisitely preserved, ageless.

Singer-guitarist Lindsey Buckingham howled and cooed, fumed and sighed, a yo-yo of emotion who scratched at his guitar like a cat shredding furniture, his playing expressive, haunting, combustible.

He stomped up and down with such force at times, the stage microphones actually picked up the thud of his feet.

And then there was the combo of drummer Mick Fleetwood and bassist John McVie, both ace blues vets who favored finesse over forcefulness. (McVie was playing his first show after getting treated for cancer in the fall.)

Though selections from “Rumours” made up the largest portion of the band’s set list, seven of 23 songs in all, and were as warmly received as long-lost relatives, the centerpiece of the show was a suite of songs from 1979’s “Tusk,” an ambitious, forward-looking double-album that was the first record to ever be tracked digitally and which deliberately pushed hard against the bounds of the band’s well-manicured, harmony-laden sound.

Prior to beginning the four-song run with the curled lip rush of “Not That Funny,” which pushed and shoved its way to a snarling chorus and is the closest this bunch has ever come to punk, Buckingham imagined, with clear relish, the horror of the band’s record company executive upon hearing the album for the first time.

Then came the rhapsodic rumble of the album’s title track, which was heightened by marching band horns, the shadowy whisper of “Sisters of the Moon,” which the group was performing on tour for the first time in 30 years, and gorgeous, plaintive ballad “Sarah,” a cathartic exhale after which Nicks and Buckingham embraced at the center of the stage.

Ultimately, this was the prevailing tone of the evening, one of resolve and a hard fought mutual admiration, especially between the aforementioned former couple.

Prior to performing “Without You,” an old Buckingham Nicks tune that Fleetwood Mac finally recorded and officially released on the four-song “Extended Play” in April, Nicks fondly recalled the early days of her romance with Buckingham in the fertile ’60s San Francisco rock scene.

“I found him to be sexy and so nice and so very, very talented,” she said of the man standing to her left, once her foil, before singing the song with him, their voices locked together like the clasped hands of a pair of smitten teenagers.

Next , there was the wistful, chiming pop of “Gypsy,” some sweetly sung nostalgia where Nicks reflects on the days when she and Buckingham were so broke, they slept on a mattress on a floor.

It all built up to their warmest shared moment in “Say Goodbye,” a song that Buckingham penned a decade ago to bring some closure to his relationship with Nicks.

“Now I finally found my way / Now I know just what to do / Once you said goodbye to me / Now I say goodbye to you,” he wrote.

Just the two of them on stage, Nicks and Buckingham sang it together, as a hush fell over the crowd.

Remember all that darkness that Nicks had spoken of earlier?

In the end, it was gone in a flash of light, a song.

RHIANNON - Amazing ending and a twirl at the 2:50 mark that harkens back to the 80's!


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