Saturday, September 27, 2014

Fleetwood Mac's famously fractured family is together, including Christine McVie

Photo: Danny Clinch
by: Jon Bream
Star Tribune 

Christine McVie is back in the picture after a 16-year separation. Fleetwood Mac talks about their oft-fractured ties and the reunion tour opening in Minneapolis Tuesday.

She’s back! Finally. After a 16-year retirement, singer/keyboardist Christine McVie has returned to Fleetwood Mac.

The “Rumours” lineup is intact. The band can perform “Don’t Stop” and “You Make Lovin’ Fun” the way they were meant to be played. Fleetwood Mac will be whole once again.

Wait a minute, sister. It’s not that simple.

This is Fleetwood Mac, rock’s famously fractured family. You can’t just write McVie — one of the group’s three singer-songwriters — back into rock’s longest-running soap opera.

It’s a process. You need meetings, and maybe a little therapy, and more discussions. It wasn’t enough that McVie sat in with the Rock Hall of Fame band for one song in London last year.

“There were conversations,” McVie said before a recent rehearsal for the band’s On With the Show Tour that opens Tuesday in Minneapolis. “And we had conference calls, and everybody thought it was a great idea and asked, was I committed seriously? I couldn't go in and out. I said: ‘I don’t have a problem with that.’ So next thing you know I was sending my demos to Lindsey [Buckingham] and he was sending them back with his guitar and his voice.”

Fleetwood Mac has become a high-profile example of a broken, dysfunctional family that somehow is able to function together. You remember the back story that led to the blockbuster “Rumours” album in 1977: Christine and John McVie, the band’s bassist, divorced; singers Buckingham and Stevie Nicks, a couple since high school, split up; and Nicks later took up with drummer Mick Fleetwood for a while.

But Fleetwood Mac has managed to play on, recording six more studio albums (one without McVie) and undertaking nine more concert tours (four sans McVie). Of course, it was far from smooth sailing; Buckingham dropped out for about four years, starting in 1988, and the entire band took a two-year hiatus in the mid-’90s.

“The Fleetwood Mac story is kind of a hopeful example for all of us that we can work through things and it’s not even just to the point where we can tolerate each other but it’s to the point where we are back relating well to each other and playing with each other successfully,” said St. Paul mediator Dan Simon, who has been practicing for 16 years and holds a master’s degree in counseling psychology and a law degree.

Fleetwood Mac is not like — oh, no need to mention the names of any other classic rock bands — reuniting just for the paychecks.

“We can’t just suck it up and cut a deal,” said Fleetwood. “If you know our history, you know there’s no way we can do this unless we’ve made efforts to reach each other because we’re all ex-lovers and lifelong friends.

“For us, this whole thing is truly about relationships. There’s a connection that has to be addressed in order for us to do what we do — it’s too complicated — because we’ve had full, hugely vested, emotional, partnering connections within this band.”

Unfinished new album

The quintet usually has new music when it hits the road. Last year, the musicians — that’s everybody but Nicks — got together and laid down tracks for a new album.

“We’ve sort of half-finished the record, which has been shelved for a while because we have the tour,” McVie said.

Meanwhile, Nicks has finished her eighth solo album — “24 Karat Gold,” due in October, was planned before Fleetwood Mac reconvened — and Fleetwood, 67, has completed his second autobiography, “Play On,” also due in October.

Fleetwood promises nothing in his new book that will surprise any of his bandmates. His 1990 memoir, “Fleetwood: My Life and Adventures in Fleetwood Mac,” was filled with sex, drugs, alcohol and intra-band acrimony. The only thing controversial about Nicks’ new album, whose subtitle is “Songs From the Vault,” is that they are old songs — most written between 1969 and 1987, and two from the mid-’90s.

Don’t expect to hear anything from Nicks’ new disc — or anything from anybody’s work outside Fleetwood Mac — in concert Tuesday.

“We’re not doing any solo stuff on this tour,” Fleetwood explained. “We did Stevie’s ‘Stand Back’ for years; it almost became a Fleetwood Mac song.”

Cancer survivor

After months of rehearsal with this reunited iteration of Fleetwood Mac, the roles of the individuals have become clear: They are the same as before.

“Lindsey has complete support and kudos for the creative flag waving that he continues to do,” said Fleetwood, ever the diplomat. “In the past, everything was so chaotic, I don’t think he ever felt appreciated on that level as much as he probably should have been.”

Fleetwood, who co-founded the band with bassist John McVie in 1967 in England, calls himself “the worrywart.” Having left his partying ways behind, he hopes to give his bandmates a sense of security.

The two female singers “aren’t in any way competitive onstage,” said Christine McVie. “I’m stuck behind the keyboards, and I’m very happy there. Stevie is the visual, sort of charismatic, ethereal one. If anything, I believe we are closer. Mick and I are sharing this house, and we have a terrific friendship. John and I are really, really good friends; we have no baggage. He is phenomenal, coming back from his colon cancer.”

But things have definitely changed with the 71-year-old singer/keyboardist back in the fold.

“With Chris, the chemistry and the emotional balance of the band is complete,” Fleetwood opined. “It’s been really uplifting for all of us. You couldn’t write this play if you tried to.

“This was unthought of — by Chris, by us,” he continued. “A year and a half ago, you would have said it would never ever possibly happen. This is unfolding with some wild angel with a magic wand hovering over us.”


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