Tuesday, October 07, 2014

Fleetwood Mac Rocks Madison Square Garden with return of Christine McVie Oct 6, 2014

REVIEW: Fleetwood Mac revives trademark harmonies with return of Christine McVie at Madison Square Garden

Prodigal band member Christine McVie returned to the fold after 16 years — but it seemed more like seconds once she joined her voice to those of Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham on Monday on the aptly named tour, ‘On With the Show.’

by Jim Farber
New York Daily News

The members of Fleetwood Mac weren’t kidding when, more than 40 years ago, they wrote the line, “You can never break the chain.”

As with the mafia or prison gangs, allegiance to almighty Mac cannot end by anything as flimsy as choice - even if significant portions of time suggest it can.

Proof arrived Monday at The Garden when prodigal member Christine McVie returned to the fold after a long stab at retirement. Sixteen years have elapsed since the group’s declared songbird departed their ranks. But it seemed more like seconds once McVie joined her voice to those of Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham on the aptly named tour, “On With the Show.”

Fittingly, the reconstituted Mac opened with “The Chain,” their 1977 ode to the promise and threat of eternal connection.

From there, the set worked in seven classic McVie songs, touchstones like “Say You Love Me” and “Over My Head” that had been banished from the band’s shows for far too long.

“We have our dream girl back,” Nicks said at one point.

McVie’s presence restored more than just repertoire and sentimentality. Her nurturing alto added a third strand to the band’s trademark harmonic weave. Together, those voices form a signature as certain as the band’s soap opera dramas and unfailing tunemanship.

At 71, McVie’s vocals exuded the same warmth she first brought to the band 44 years ago, well before Nicks and Buckingham’s presence soared them to their commercial peak. McVie’s particular sense of melody, evident in songs from under-appreciated Mac albums like 1972’s “Bare Trees,” wound up presaging the pop formalism the band would idealize on 1977’s “Rumors.”

At The Garden, McVie lent the live band a more varied dynamic, in both sound and character. In the years of her absence, the live focus fell hard on the frisson between Nicks and Buckingham. Their complex relationship — culled from a vexing mix of their personal and professional lives — became the subtext, and sometimes the text, of the shows.

The addition of McVie’s songs gave the show a lighter layer, a sweet contrast to the darker warnings housed in the Nicks/Buckingham catalogue. That became evident with the set’s second song, “You Make Loving Fun.” It offered a creamy reprieve from the pieces surrounding it — the band’s declarative “The Chain” and Nicks’ wan “Dreams.”

Much of the subsequent selection repeated Mac standards — from “Rhiannon” and “Gypsy,” for Nicks, to “Second Hand News” and “Never Going Back Again,” for Buckingham.

The show also featured reliable showcases, like Nicks’ masterpiece about aging, “Landslide,” and Buckingham’s flexing of his guitar god muscles in “I’m So Afraid,” or his quicksilver Spanish guitar fingerings in “Big Love.” But the night also featured rarities, like Nicks' “Seven Wonders.”

It would have been nice if they had sifted back into their set “Oh Well,” a piece by former member Peter Green from 1969 that they only retired in the last decade. The gesture would have gone the extra mile in making their essential point about continuity and commitment. They came close, however, by giving McVie the last word.

Her signature piece from 1977, “Songbird,” closed the night with a wholly idealized view of love. Given the nuance and complexity of the music and backstory that preceded it, the band more than deserved a final moment of unguarded love.

Fleetwood Mac rocks Madison Square Garden with Christine McVie's return
October 6, 2014
By Glenn Gamboa

Fleetwood Mac's flexibility has always been its secret weapon, its three distinctive singers giving it a wide variety of sounds that few bands can match.

That becomes even clearer with the focus on singer/keyboardist Christine McVie at Madison Square Garden Monday night, marking her return to Fleetwood Mac after 17 years of retirement from the road.

With McVie back in the Mac, there is more of a balance of blues and rock. Her rich voice on "You Make Loving Fun" and "Everywhere" is a nice counterpoint to the more aggressive, rocking vocals of Lindsey Buckingham and the more ethereal singing of Stevie Nicks.

And when they all sing together, in the gorgeous "Rhiannon" or "Say You Love Me," it's still magical.

"I've been away for a long time," McVie told the cheering crowd. "You don't often get a chance to do what you love twice in your life."

It's still early in the tour, which launched last week, and they are still working out some pieces. (Fleetwood Mac returns to The Garden Tuesday night and plays Prudential Center on Saturday.) Nicks mistakenly tried to introduce "Over My Head," which was written by McVie, before laughing and yielding the stage, saying, "I don't know the story of this song."

However, the nervousness of such veteran performers just added to the charm of the night, which got stronger the deeper they got into the 2 1/2-hour set. Between Buckingham's epic guitar solos, Mick Fleetwood's massive drumming, John McVie's strong bass work, Nicks' patented spins to punctuate the lovely "Gypsy" and Christine McVie's lush vocals, Fleetwood Mac looked ready to take on what Buckingham has called "their next chapter."

SETLIST: The Chain / You Make Loving Fun / Dreams / Second Hand News / Rhiannon / Everywhere / I Know I'm Not Wrong / Tusk / Sisters of the Moon / Say You Love Me / Seven Wonders / Big Love / Landslide / Never Going Back Again / Over My Head / Gypsy / Little Lies / Gold Dust Woman / I'm So Afraid / Go Your Own Way // ENCORES: World Turning / Don't Stop / Silver Springs / Songbird

Above Photos Charles Sykes

Fleetwood Mac 'Float on a Cloud' at Euphoric Madison Square Garden Gig
by Andy Greene
Rolling Stone

With Christine McVie back after a 16-year absence, the band gleefully resurrects classics like "Songbird" and "You Make Loving Fun"

Photo: Neilson Barnard

About eight minutes into Fleetwood Mac's first sold-out concert at Madison Square Garden, the spotlight hit Christine McVie as the band launched into "You Make Loving Fun," the fourth and final single from Rumours. "This feeling follows me wherever I go," she sang in a voice that sounded like it had barely aged a day since 1977. "I never did believe in miracles/But I've a feeling it's time to try."

She was singing about an ancient old love affair with the group's former lighting director Curry Grant, but she might as well have been referring to Fleetwood Mac circa 2014. The singer-songwriter's sudden departure in 1998 seriously hobbled the group, robbing them of one of their three key voices and the drastically limiting the pool of songs they can draw from in concert. They carried on without her, and even thrived at times, but they were always operating at less than capacity. Her completely unexpected return gives them a major boost just as they were dangerously close to becoming a stale, predictable oldies act.

McVie's first spotlight moment was also a chances for fans to breathe a sigh of a relief. When the shock of her return wore off, some worried that the 71-year-old might have trouble hitting the high notes or re-acclimating herself to a band that had long since adapted to life without her. Thankfully, the fears were unfounded and she slid effortlessly back into her old job, taking leads on some songs, providing harmonies on others and even strapping an accordion when "Tusk" rolled around.

McVie's return forced the group to completely overhaul their show, getting rid of all solo tracks and (the admittedly limited selection) of tunes they'd released since the Reagan Administration. What remained were 24 songs that came out between 1975 and 1987, the vast majority of which were hits. The additional band member also meant that Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham no longer had to carry the burden of singing every song. It allowed Buckingham to focus on his guitar playing, while Nicks was able to stand back and simply, at times, sing harmony. They sounded like Fleetwood Mac again and not a four-fifths approximation. 

Early on in the night, Lindsey stepped forward and delivered what was essentially a Fleetwood Mac State of the Union: "Fleetwood Mac is a band that continues to evolve, continues to prevail through good times and through adversity," he said. "With the return of the beautiful Christine McVie, this begins a beautiful, profound and a new chapter for this band, one that will last a long, long time and will be very fruitful."

The show began with a haunting rendition of "The Chain," one of a whopping nine tracks from Rumours. (Maybe one day they'll drop in "Oh Daddy" and "I Don't Want to Know.") From there they toggled back and forth between their glossy 1980s hits ("Gypsy," "Little Lies") and their more guitar-driven Seventies tracks ("World Turning," "Rhiannon"). In the middle, Buckingham delivered powerful solo acoustic renditions of "Big Love" and "Never Going Back Again," and in between, Nicks appeared for the inevitable "Landslide," a track that only grows more powerful and poignant as the two former lovers age. 

Still, not everything worked quite as well as it should have. Maybe the group, still only playing their fourth show together, was a little jittery, but some moments that usually send the crowd into absolute hysterics fell a little flat. "Rhiannon" wasn't her usual feral self, and "Tusk," "Go Your Own Way" and "Gold Dust Woman" failed to hit the peaks they have in days past. But these are minor quibbles, and every time Christine took a lead vocal even the most disinterested audience members looked up from their Instagram feeds and began singing along.

The encores kicked off with "World Turning" (which featured a wildly unnecessary Mick Fleetwood drum solo) and continued with "Don't Stop" and "Silver Springs." Stevie got particularly revved up during the latter, turning her body towards Lindsey as she belted out the lines, "You'll never get away from the sound of the woman that loves you" directly into his face. They've been playing the role of jilted ex-lovers for decades now, and they do it fabulously, but somewhere underneath the showmanship there seems to be legitimate pain.

This truly seemed like the grand finale, especially because it's exactly how they ended the show on many of their recent tours, but Fleetwood Mac 2013 is a very different beast than Fleetwood Mac 2014: Just as fans began putting on their coats, a piano was rolled out and Christine McVie sat down to deliver an absolutely riveting, delicate rendition of "Songbird." She sang the first half completely on her own, and Lindsey quietly joined in on guitar halfway through. It was the greatest moment of the whole night, and if you closed your eyes you could have easily thought you were listening to a recording from the Rumours tour.

As the group came back out for a final bow, Lindsey threw his arms around Christine and engulfed her in a giant bear hug. Then Stevie and Mick came out to deliver some parting thoughts. "This is the fourth gig with young Christine and we are literally in heaven, floating on a cloud," Fleetwood said. "No doubt, not a gig anywhere on this planet will go by without me saying, on behalf of all of us, take the first step, take care of yourselves and more importantly, be kind to one another. And remember, the Mac is most definitely back!"

Fleetwood Mac: 'Amen to Christine McVie's return'
New album on way and full Fleetwood Mac reunion, as return of Christine McVie is hailed as 'a beautiful poetic new chapter' in band's history

Photo: Neilson Barnard
By Martin Chilton

Fleetwood Mac guitarist Lindsey Buckingham has hailed "a beautiful, profound and poetic new chapter" in the band's history with the return to touring of singer and songwriter Christine McVie.

The 71-year-old from England's Lake District area has been mostly absent from the band for 16 years but her arrival on stage at New York City's Madison Square Garden was marked by Mick Fleetwood looking to the ceiling and shouting "Amen".
With Stevie Nicks in her trademark shawl, and ex-husband and bassist John McVie, also on stage, it restored the band to its mid-Seventies and most successful five-strong configuration.

There was another New York show last night as part of a planned 33-city On With the Show tour that began in Minneapolis and was due to end on December 20 in Tampa, Florida. But on October 9, a further 28 dates were added that will extend the tour into 2015.

On their first night in New York, the band performed The Chain, the McVie-penned You Make Loving Fun and Little Lies and, for the final encore, McVie performed her signature composition Songbird, performed solo on a baby grand piano, which was heard in reverential silence by a sold-out audience.

"I've been away quite a long time and you don't often get a chance to do something you love so much twice in your life," she said.

The band say the will finish their new album once the tour is over and it will be released in early 2015. According to Buckingham, eight songs are about almost completed, seven of the which were written or co-written by McVie. These tracks include Too Far Gone, Carnival Begin and Red Sun. "You have to look at the five (of us) as a study in chemistry," Buckingham said recently. "What a lot of the fans really bought into was beyond music ... it was this beautiful chemistry that they saw between the five of us."

A Band Member Returns to the Fold, and Camaraderie and Nostalgia Ensue
Christine McVie Rejoins Fleetwood Mac at the Garden
by Jon Pareles
New York Times

“Welcome back, Chris!” Stevie Nicks proclaimed soon after Fleetwood Mac started its set on Monday night at Madison Square Garden. “Where have you been?”

Photo: Chad Batka

“Long story, Stevie,” said the laconic Christine McVie from behind her keyboards. In 1998, after 28 years with Fleetwood Mac, Ms. McVie retired from touring with the band.

But in January, as Ms. Nicks told it in a post-encore monologue, Ms. McVie phoned to ask, “How would you feel if I decided to come back to the band?” (She had already made a guest appearance in September 2013 at a Fleetwood Mac concert in London.) Ms. Nicks added that she advised Ms. McVie to get a trainer because Fleetwood Mac’s shows are so “physical”; its concert set runs 2 ½ hours. And while Ms. McVie’s voice, like the others in the band, has roughened over the decades, it’s still hearty.

With Ms. McVie, Fleetwood Mac has returned to the lineup that made it the world’s best-selling band 37 years ago when it released “Rumours,” an album of sparkling pop-rock songs about, mostly, crumbling relationships. Ms. McVie was the more levelheaded, kindly voice alongside the band’s other two songwriters: Ms. Nicks — sometimes dreamy, sometimes vindictive — and the guitarist Lindsey Buckingham, who tucked angry, wounded lyrics into virtuosic guitar parts.

Ms. McVie’s demure alto bound together the group’s vocal harmonies; her songs promised that loyal affection was still possible. The three singers and songwriters were backed by the band’s namesakes and tireless rhythm section, the drummer Mick Fleetwood and the bassist John McVie, Christine’s ex-husband since 1977.

Ms. McVie wrote the determinedly optimistic, forward-looking “Don’t Stop,” which insists “yesterday’s gone.” But to the delight of a nostalgic audience on Monday, the band drew its entire set from the five albums this lineup made together: “Fleetwood Mac” (1975), “Rumours” (1977), “Tusk” (1979), “Mirage” (1982) and “Tango in the Night” (1987). There was camaraderie onstage; when Ms. McVie sang “Say You Love Me,” Ms. Nicks was singing along without a microphone, like a fan who knew all the words.

Fleetwood Mac can’t duplicate its youthful sweetness. Ms. McVie’s voice has held its richness, but sometimes falters at high notes. Ms. Nicks’s huskiness has grown harsher, and in her glittery shawls she turns slowly now instead of twirling across the stage. But Fleetwood Mac still has the intricacy, elegance and underlying punch of its songs.

Mr. Buckingham is clearly the band’s leader now. The guitar parts that twinkle through Fleetwood Mac’s albums — patterns of picking and strumming that meld folk styles with classical guitar detail — come into the foreground onstage. He turned Ms. Nicks’s “Gold Dust Woman” into a darker incantation before taking a long, skirling, keening solo in his own “I’m So Afraid”; “Tusk” was a cry of despair, not a novelty.

But Ms. McVie was the band’s quieter center of attention, and she had the last word with her “Songbird.” Even though she played it largely alone on piano, with a modest guitar solo from Mr. Buckingham, it meant that Fleetwood Mac was complete again.

Fleetwood Mac Relives Past Peaks & Lows at Madison Square Garden Concert
By Kenneth Partridge

Photo: Neilson Barnard

In the setlist created for Fleetwood Mac's latest tour -- the first in 16 years with singer and keyboardist Christine McVie -- Fleetwood Mac leaves plenty of room for inter-song stories.

And for good reason: This band's personal dramas are nearly as legendary as its music, and the various elephants in the room can't be ignored. They ought to get their own drum solos during "Tusk."

With that in mind, it hardly felt like a misstep on Monday night (Oct. 6) when Stevie Nicks jumped ahead during the first of two Mac concerts at Madison Square Garden and prepared to tell New York City fans the tale behind "Gypsy." The problem? It was time for song No. 15 on the setlist -- where McVie explains and sings "In Over My Head" -- not 16, and that left Stevie to offer a sheepish apology.

"I don't know the story for this one," Nicks said with a smile. "I'd love to."

The lives of the five individuals onstage are so intertwined, of course, that a little overlap is inevitable.

Nearly 40 years after the release of its 1977 landmark Rumours, this British-American band of ex-lovers and drug buddies has put professionalism before lingering resentments. And during Monday's rock-solid performance, Nicks' minor gaff was the only chink in the armor. The Mac attack rolls on, leveling cities with the power of its hits and letting the backstory frame the presentation without distracting from the songs.

Guitarist Lindsey Buckingham wouldn't have it any other way. Monday night at MSG, the skinny-jeaned singer, guitarist, musical director, and onetime Nicks paramour bounded across the stage with more energy than his four bandmates combined.

With McVie back in the fold, Buckingham predicted a "profound and poetic new chapter for this band," and to prove his point, he followed that statement with "I Know I'm Not Wrong," a punk-inspired cut from the Mac's divisive 1979 double LP Tusk.

"I Know I'm Not Wrong" didn't get the same reaction as "The Chain, "You Make Loving Fun," or "Dreams -- the trio of smashes that opened the 24-song, two-plus-hour show -- but it pointed a way forward for the group. Buckingham and McVie have reportedly been spearheading efforts for a new Mac record, and if Buckingham brings any of the barking intensity he showed on "I'm Not Afraid" or the fiery doom-grass finger workout "Big Love" (a showcase for his innovative picking technique), the Mac might return with a worthy addition to its canon.

If not, they can continue coasting on the old stuff, though it helps to have McVie making her triumphant return. The Mac was getting dangerously low on storyline. In addition to presiding over her excellent '70s gems and oft-overlooked '80s hits "Everywhere" and "Little Lies" -- both of which kept the band relevant as the classic lineup began to dissolve -- McVie gave Monday's show a reason for happening.

"Our songbird has returned," drummer Mick Fleetwood said during his stage introductions -- and indeed, McVie's honeyed vocals are as strong as ever. She's the Mac's not-so-secret pop weapon, and on "You Make Loving Fun," she glided easily through the high notes of the chorus. "And the songbirds keep singing," she sang during the night's grand finale, "Songbird," "Like they know the score."

Nicks, by contrast, gave deeper, more growling readings of "Dreams" and "Rhiannon" than casual fans might have been ready for. While the latter became a challenge to sing along to, Stevie's new approach suits her dark, mystical lyrics. These days, Stevie digs into the material more than she belts it out, though she might have been saving herself for late-set thriller "Gold Dust Woman," that wonderful anti-fairytale about cocaine and breakups and everything else that went into the Rumours cauldron.

The first encore belonged to Fleetwood -- all decked out in his dandy pirate-wear -- who yipped and shouted as he banged out the drum solo in "World Turning," offering clues into what goes through a drummer's mind when he's given free reign. Next was "Don't Stop," which sadly didn't bring a surprise appearance from Hillary Clinton, who danced awkwardly to the tune two decades ago at her husband's first inauguration.

It probably wasn't the right time for Hillary to announce her candidacy for president anyway. Monday's gig -- and this entire tour -- is about nostalgia for the '70s and '80s, not the '90s. Perhaps Clinton will find a campaign song on that new record the Mac is promising. There's supposed to be one called "Carnival Begin," a fitting title for all parties involved.

Fleetwood Mac wows at MSG, set to play Prudential Center Saturday

Photo: Neilson Barnard

“Hallelujah,” drummer Mick Fleetwood said when introducing Christine McVie to the crowd at Madison Square Garden, Monday night. And it was exactly the right word.

When singer-keyboardist McVie decided to stop touring with the band in the late ’90s, the loss wasn’t only a musical one. A band is a family, not just an assemblage of artists, and rarely is that more true than in the case of Fleetwood Mac, whose mid- to late-’70s commercial and artistic peak coincided with a time when various relationships within the band were being tested, broken and reassembled.

Many of the band’s best songs are autobiographical, or at least seem to be, so you really need the original cast to give them their full resonance. When ex-lovers Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham, for instance, sang together on “Go Your Own Way” and “Silver Springs” on Monday, they glared at each other, as if their romantic wounds were still fresh.

McVie sings lead on hits such as “Over My Head,” “You Make Loving Fun” and “Say You Love Me,” as well as the majestic ballad “Songbird.” So when it was announced, early this year, that she would be rejoining the band for its current On With the Show Tour — which began last week, and also includes a stop at the Prudential Center in Newark on Saturday — it made the tour into an event. Those songs would be back, but more important, the entire family, with all its thorny dynamics, would be reunited.

Appropriately enough, the band began the Garden show with its anthem of interconnectedness, “The Chain,” and sensibly arranged the setlist to underscore McVie’s presence: The second song was “You Make Loving Fun,” and the last encore was “Songbird.”

The evening’s emotional high point, though, belonged to Nicks and her sad, reflective acoustic ballad, “Landslide.”

The band is working on a new album, but stuck to its old material at the Garden. Still, there was no doubt that band members are feeling re-energized by McVie’s return. I’ve rarely seen a classic-rock show where all the band members seemed so happy just to be there together. I know this is crazy, but during “Second Hand News” and “I Know I’m Not Wrong,” I thought of the Ramones: The band barreled forward with that much focused energy. It really was amazing, particularly when you think that Fleetwood and bassist John McVie co-founded the first incarnation of the band as part of the blues-rock revival of the 1960s, and that current band members (who were joined by four unobtrusive backing musicians at the Garden) range in age from 65 to 71.

There were some minor surprises, including a slowed-down, hypnotic version of “Never Going Back Again.” But in general, the band followed its usual script. Nicks did her spinning on “Rhiannon” and “Gypsy,” Buckingham stomped around the stage playing wild guitar solos on “Tusk” and “I’m So Afraid.” Fleetwood got the crowd charged up by taking a long drum solo, complete with eccentric vocalizing (he almost seemed to be speaking in tongues at times), during “World Turning.”

Yes, it was a greatest-hits show, but it was also a chance for the band to touch bases with Christine McVie again before setting off in a new direction.

During his introduction for “I Know I’m Not Wrong,” Buckingham said that this is the beginning of a new chapter for Fleetwood Mac that will last for a long time and be “very fruitful.” Things always seem to be changing in the Fleetwood Mac world, so there are no guarantees. But at the very least, the stage has been set for Buckingham’s vision to come true, and as long as everyone can remain as positive and inspired as they were on Monday, there’s no reason it can’t happen.


greg said...

Have a great time in NYC! I hope you're staying long enough to see the Stevie exhibit!

Anonymous said...

It was a terrific show for a number of reasons, their music, Christine's return, the beautiful stage and sound system and sold out enthusiastic crowd. But what really made it memorable was how relaxed and happy they were on stage to be playing their music once again together. The audience picked up on it from the first song and never let it go. It truly was a Garden party.

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