Review: Fleetwood Mac flops without Lindsey Buckingham on boardYOU MAKE LOVING FUN
Jim Harrington - Mercury News
Photos: LiPo Ching
Jim Harrington - Mercury News
Photos: LiPo Ching
Fleetwood Mac showed up and played music at the SAP Center in San Jose on Nov. 21.
The band’s performance was professional, mostly well organized and started in a timely fashion.
It wasn’t an entirely bad way to spend a Wednesday night.
But you’ll have to excuse me if I’m not sounding too enthusiastic about the concert. It’s just that, for the entire evening, it was nearly impossible to shake the feeling that something — or, more accurately, someone — was missing.
And that someone was, of course, Lindsey Buckingham.
The group dismissed its incredibly talented singer-songwriter-guitarist back in April, sending shockwaves through the classic rock world and resulting in a big lawsuit between Buckingham and the band. Of course, Fleetwood Mac has long been one of rock’s all-time great soap operas, but few outside the band saw this coming.
The split ostensibly had something to do with the band’s touring schedule, with the big sticking point reportedly being over when the trek was to begin. Although, Buckingham told Rolling Stone that his former band mate — and former love interest — Stevie Nicks wanted him out of the band, going so far as to have Fleetwood Mac manager Irving Azoff deliver the message that “Stevie never wants to be on a stage with you again.”
So, the band quickly enlisted not one, but two replacement guitarists — Neil Finn of Crowded House fame and Mike Campbell of Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers — and announced a major tour.
The loss of Buckingham didn’t stop the public from snatching up ducats. The San Jose show was dubbed a sell out, while big crowds are expected for the band’s two upcoming shows in Northern California — Nov. 23 at Golden 1 Center in Sacramento and Nov. 25 at Oracle Arena in Oakland. (Tickets, priced $69.50-$299.50, are still available for those two shows at www.ticketmaster.com. Shows start at 8 p.m.)
The fans seemed pretty excited about the evening as they entered the SAP Center, forming long lines at the merchandise booths to purchase $15 Fleetwood Mac bottle openers, $20 Fleetwood Mac mugs, $15 Fleetwood Mac shot glasses and an assortment of $40 Fleetwood Mac T-shirts. There was, however, no truth to the rumor that the band might be selling “Lindsey Buckingham is a big jerk” hoodies.
The fans were still going strong as the group — featuring vocalist Nicks, drummer Mick Fleetwood, bassist John McVie, vocalist-keyboardist Christine McVie and new members Campbell and Finn — took the stage and kicked off the show with a rousing version of “The Chain,” from the 1977 blockbuster “Rumours.”
Yet, it wouldn’t last and the enthusiasm — from the band and especially its fans — quickly began to wane.
You see, it’s not always enough to simply try and replace talent with talent. If it was just pure guitar chops then the new Fleetwood Mac — with Campbell on board — wouldn’t miss Buckingham all that much. If it was just a fine singing voice then the new Fleetwood Mac — with Finn signed on — would be just fine.
But Buckingham also brought hard-to-quantify intangibles to the band. He delivered the passion and power, brought the heart and soul, and was able to lift the entire show to a higher level. He also shared unbelievable love/hate chemistry with Nicks — a dynamic that helped make Fleetwood Mac more than just a tired nostalgia act.
Yet, the group was sounding pretty tired on this night, as it delivered clean, capable and barely compelling versions of such fan favorites as “Dreams,” “Second Hand News” and “Say You Love Me.”
The two newcomers did help out quite a bit, though.
Campbell’s guitar leads were typically on point throughout the night and he did an admirable job on the microphone during “Oh Well,” a 1969 single from what’s commonly referred to as the Peter Green-era of Fleetwood Mac. He’d also heavily factor in during the encore, as the band covered Tom Petty’s “Free Fallin'” with Nicks on vocals.
Finn was part of the best moment of the night, as he sang a lovely duet with Nicks on the Crowded House nugget “Don’t Dream It’s Over.”
“It’s in the top five best-written songs in the history of songs,” Nicks commented at its conclusion.
Overall, Nicks didn’t have a great night. The former Bay Area resident, who attended San Jose State University, kept saying how nervous she was to be back home — and she’d prove it by forgetting the lyrics and losing the key on “Landslide.”
“I think that has never happened before — ever,” she said.
One thing that hasn’t changed in Buckingham’s absence is that Mick Fleetwood’s lengthy, obnoxious drum solo is still a complete waste of time and space. It goes nowhere. But it still takes forever to get there.
As the band wrapped the main set up with the dependable crowd pleaser “Go Your Own Way,” I couldn’t help but linger on the feeling that the whole thing would’ve been so much better with Buckingham in the mix.
Sure, without Buckingham, the group has proven that it can still be popular, still sell out an arena, still get people to spend $15 on a bottle opener.
But, without Buckingham, the group might never be truly great again.