Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Houston Review: "McVie in fine form, Fleetwood Mac turns back time"

Photo by Jane Howze
With McVie in fine form, Fleetwood Mac turns back time in nostalgic concert
By Jane Howze

Fleetwood Mac played to a sold-out adoring crowd at the Toyota Center on Monday night. Many in the audience saw the band on their 2013 World Tour in June. Our reviewer gave the concert a big thumbs-up, with a footnote that “Fleetwood Mac is not Fleetwood Mac without keyboardist/vocalist Christine McVie.” 

This time around, a youthful looking 71-year-old McVie joined the band, and her energy and high spirits elevated the concert to another level.

Every time McVie took the lead, the crowd roared — and the band itself seemed delighted to have their “beautiful Christine” back. With good reason. She soared in a powerful “Say That You Love Me” and “Over My Head” and provided spirited keyboards on “Don’t Stop Thinking About Tomorrow.”    

Playing for nearly three hours to a mostly older yet energetic crowd (this was not your Eagles audience who meekly followed orders to stay seated), Stevie Nicks, Lindsay Buckingham and McVie shared lead vocals. Opening with “The Chain” written by all five band members from the classic album Rumours, McVie then launched into “You Make Loving Fun.” Her lyrical and earthy alto made it clear that while Fleetwood Mac has held up amazingly well given their ages, McVie adds a richer and more nuanced sound.

Plus it allowed Nicks to harmonize and Buckingham to play his emotional guitar solos without having to be overly burdened with vocals. 

Hits and cheering

With McVie back in the mix, the 24-song setlist shifted to songs recorded that they couldn’t perform without her in previous concerts. The hits and cheering never stopped.

Nicks’ version of "Rhiannon" in a lower key with a slightly different arrangement didn’t suit my taste. I’m not sure if the arrangement was because of her difficulty in hitting the high notes or was a way to mix it up. As she did at the last Houston concert, Nicks dedicated “Landslide” to a woman in the audience named Rhiannon who had survived a seemingly insurmountable health challenge.

After Nicks sang "Seven Wonders," she gave a shout out to American Horror Story: Coven, in which she made a cameo and featured the song earlier this year.

Buckingham, the youngster in the group at age 65, was the only band member who didn’t leave the stage. Before launching into "Big Love," he joked with someone in the front row that “you were not born when we wrote this song.” 

Nicks was her usual hippie self with scarves, high heeled boots and flowing clothing reminiscent of the '70s with a long (too long) anecdote about her early days of shopping in a store frequented by Grace Slick and Janice Joplin called The Velvet Underground. She urged young audience members to pursue their dreams and then launched into to an extended “Gypsy.” With “Gold Dust Woman” she donned a gold shawl and twirled as John McVie (Christine's ex) and Buckingham showed their respective keyboard and guitar prowess. The song conjured up an almost psychedelic experience.

Other highlights included Buckingham on “I’m So Afraid” which brought an extended standing ovation after his show-stopping guitar solo and an energized “Don’t Stop Thinking About Tomorrow."

The best surprise of the night was the second encore when a baby grand piano was rolled out for Christine McVie’s vulnerable and delicate “Songbird," with Buckingham quietly backing her on guitar.

After the band took their final bow, Mick Fleetwood and Nicks returned (wearing a Christmas decoration on her head) to once again thank the fans, express happiness for having “young” Christine back in the band and wish everyone a Merry Christmas and, as Fleetwood said, “be kind to one another.”   

For those who  “can’t stop thinking about tomorrow," Fleetwood Mac will be back in Houston March 3, 2015 for another concert.

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