Showing posts with label Fleetwood Mac Unleashed Tour Review Anaheim. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Fleetwood Mac Unleashed Tour Review Anaheim. Show all posts

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Fleetwood Mac takes a while finding its groove


LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) - Fleetwood Mac's show was ambling along on Saturday. The packed crowd at the Honda Center in Anaheim was being entertained but not really affected.

"We're gonna get this party started," Stevie Nicks said after the second number, and the band began "Dreams" -- a No. 1 single from a 19 million-selling LP, but not what leaps to mind when one thinks "party starter."

And so it went for more than an hour: pleasant old songs, pleasantly recited, with the occasional address to the audience. But then the vibe changed.

The once-huge group played "Say You Love Me," written and originally sung by Mac retiree Christine McVie. Lindsey Buckingham embellished the second verse, almost arguing with the melody. The 40-year rhythm section of Mick Fleetwood and John McVie made it rumble.

The song earned the evening's first true roar, and it was game on.

Nicks then let loose on "Gold Dust Woman," offering her most inspired vocal of the night. Then came "Oh Well," the set's oldest song and by far its hardest-rocking. Buckingham bit off the lines, keeping the emphatic pauses, then ripped off a long guitar solo that was heavier than anything he ever recorded with Fleetwood Mac.

The crowd had caught on, and the rest of the night was terrific.

Taken in full, this was exactly what a heritage rock act playing arenas should deliver: Put aside any simmering personal issues and play 2-1/2 hours of the biggest hits, with a few fan-favorite album cuts and some nuggets -- at a top ticket price of $150.

Of course, "personal issues" were synonymous with Fleetwood Mac at the height of its popularity (18 of the night's 23 songs came from the group's megaplatinum 1975-79 era). Buckingham acknowledged the band's "fairly complex and convoluted emotional history." Those old tensions were evident as the main quartet kept their distance onstage as if separated by minefields. Meanwhile, the giant video screens often showed Buckingham and Nicks side by side as if via Photoshop.

Backed by two musicians -- tucked in a nook that was borderline backstage -- and three singers, the Mac was in good form. Buckingham sang and played with fervor, adding bursts of big guitar. Dressed in her trademark webby chiffon that resembles a giant doily, Nicks played air drums and guitar and real tambourine, her smoky vocals steering clear of the higher ranges but working well otherwise. Fleetwood and John McVie laid down typically solid rhythms, the former taking a brief eyes-closed drum solo.

Christine McVie was missed, with only a few of her songs making the set list. But this was an enjoyable show that justified a veteran act hitting the road with no new material. As Buckingham said: "This time we said to each other, 'Let's just go out and have fun.' ... There is no new album -- yet."

No need, really.

Sunday, May 24, 2009


The band, still potent although a bit weather-worn and missing Christine McVie, revisits 'Rumours' and 'Tusk' during a sprawling show

Fleetwood Mac, the American-British powerhouse behind one of the bestselling albums of all time, is rock's greatest example of the good gained from ignoring every bit of sage advice known to humans about love and relationships.

But thank the dysfunctional heavens they did: The Mac has emerged some 30 years later as a weather-worn but still gripping outfit, currently touring in its most potent configuration, minus the singer and songwriter of some of its most durable hits, the retired Christine McVie.

For those needing a refresher course in popular rock scandal, the band forged ahead for 1977's blockbuster "Rumours" despite breakups between front couple Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks, and founding member John McVie and wife Christine.

It's all ancient history now -- or is it? This latest greatest hits trek, titled "The Unleashed Tour," inevitably finds the band revisiting "Rumours" and its more challenging follow-up, the sprawling and fantastic "Tusk," but instead of shying away from its fractious history, Fleetwood Mac has woven it into the concert repertoire.

In one of his song introductions at Anaheim's Honda Center on Saturday night, Buckingham explained that the first "Rumours" tune they recorded revealed his emotional temperature at that moment -- anger, bitterness, even a little humor, but "we had to reconcile . . . at least for a short time." The band then launched into one of its strongest performances of the night, a thrillingly muscular "Second Hand News."

Buckingham often spoke with the measured tones of someone who's been in therapy. Other times, he would yowl, stamp his feet or thump his lean-muscled chest before pointing reverently at the crowd. He also dropped a big hint about the Mac's future: "There's no new album to promote yet" (his emphasis).

Nicks occupied her side of the stage with an entirely different energy. Clutching a tambourine festooned with strips of fabric, her performance was sometimes too sedate, though not without breakthrough moments of fiery engagement.

Maybe the gypsy queen was conserving her energy for the lengthy show (total time was 2 hours and 40 minutes), but her early performance of "Dreams" only spottily struck on the song's slumberous wisdom. Nicks' range has narrowed over the years, but by the middle of the set her voice seemed warmed up, her presence more keen.

For "Gold Dust Woman," Nicks, wrapped in one of her many luminous shawls of the night, reveled in her favorite role of stage-bound shaman, her brown eyes finally blazing as she gave her most convincing vocal performance of the night. McVie and Fleetwood provided stellar rhythm support as she closed the song in a classic Nicks position -- draped arms out, back to the crowd, light pouring in around her figure.

Despite her listlessness at times, Nicks is no less a treasure to behold, the rare rock 'n' roll frontwoman who's still inspiring to legions of young bands. Her sense of mystique provides an important counterpoint to Buckingham, who -- blistering guitar solos and all -- is familiarly situated in the rock god vein.

But when Buckingham and Nicks hugged at the end of "Sara," an awkward but nevertheless moving gesture, they proved they have the ability to surprise the audience as well as each other. And so new depths of Fleetwood Mac will surely be plumbed for lovers everywhere, old and new.

--Margaret Wappler
Photo credit: Francine Orr / Los Angeles Times


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Fleetwood Mac's chatty journey through the past
The band revels in revealing stories behind the songs for first tour in five years.

They're calling it Unleashed: Hits Tour 2009, this latest Fleetwood Mac outing, which stopped Saturday night at a packed Honda Center in Anaheim and returns next week to play Staples Center, the MGM Grand in Las Vegas and San Diego Sports Arena. But that billing is a misnomer two ways.

Unleashed? Well, yes and no. If by "unleashed" you mean "free to do as we please," then sure, there's a touch of the Mac unbound here – especially as the continuing "Rumours" lineup (sadly, still without Christine McVie) is touring for the first time with no new album to promote, theoretically opening the door for them to Jack FM this thing and play what they like.

Of course, when I hear "unleashed" I think of fearless, mercurial, untamed, electrifying musicianship – not exactly what anyone has thought of Fleetwood Mac since Peter Green split at the turn of the '70s. But, again, there's a kernel of truth in their advertising. Check the Stones and the Who for proof: Hall of Famers start performing differently once they reach their 60s, as everyone but Lindsey Buckingham has. (He'll hit six-oh come October; Stevie Nicks turns 61 on Tuesday. Mick Fleetwood is 62 come June and John McVie is six months into his 63rd year.)

There's a looseness that sets in when bands cross that threshold. Partly that's a natural result of aging, as stars start to slow down, move more deliberately (even in the sort of platform boots Stevie favors these days) and tweak material to fit vocal registers that don't range as high as they used to. But more so it's a case of returning to the sort of devil-may-care attitude that fuels so many future rock icons when they're younger.

It isn't that Fleetwood Mac has stopped caring how they sound. It's that they've stopped caring so much about how they sound – whether they've slurred this lyric or blurred that riff or botched a harmony. At some point meticulousness became an albatross. Now, instead of failing to be what they were, they've chosen to perform in the moment and not worry about living up to a rusting ideal. "Let's just go out and have fun," Lindsey put it with uncharacteristic succinctness.

Consequently, as with peers and forebears still making a hearty racket, the result is a new kind of ramshackle fierceness. Not to suggest that a group as relatively mellow as Mac is suddenly roaring like Page and Plant reunited, but Saturday night there was noticeable punch and kick to just about everything – which was anticipated on behemoths like "Tusk" and "I'm So Afraid" (bolstered by another scorching solo from Lindsey) yet proved surprising on swampier fare like "The Chain" and "Gold Dust Woman" and sleeker stuff like "Rhiannon" and "Gypsy."

But getting back to the tour title … "Hits," they say? Again, yes and no. And whose hits, for that matter? As with the Eagles, the Mac has taken to including solo fare: Stevie's chugging "Stand Back" late in the game, Lindsey's "Go Insane" early on, accompanied by mutating ink-blot visuals.

True, the majority of the band's 23 selections on this tour (the set list never changes) remain indestructible classic-rock staples – in addition to the ones I've already named you can add "Go Your Own Way," "Don't Stop," "Second Hand News," "Big Love," "Landslide," the positively dreamy "Sara." Yet even out of that list not everything was a "hit," per se, while numbers like "I Know I'm Not Wrong" and "Storms" (the latter chosen because it had never been played live before) don't even qualify as old-school FM radio gems the way "World Turning" or the evening-closing "Silver Springs" do.

It's also difficult to stage a best-of show when a tunesmith as formidable and essential as Christine McVie remains retired. Expectedly absent were "Over My Head," "You Make Loving Fun," "Little Lies" and "Hold Me." "Say You Love Me," however, was dusted off in tribute, with Stevie (in unflattering makeup that made her look wasted much of the time) and Lindsey (constantly wearing a post-euphoric expression resembling Bill Murray) capably providing McVie's melody.

Also, late in the evening, as Stevie exited once more for a costume change and potty break, the rest of the band served up a plenty raucous (if never quite ripping) rendition of the pre-mega-Mac standard "Oh Well," a fine homage to the group's roots in heavy blues-rock.

Otherwise this satisfying revue was precisely what it should have been called: "The Stevie & Lindsey Show," with all the hoary melodrama and esoteric between-song ramblings that you'd expect from such a program. Kicked off with "Monday Morning," the first track on the first album (1975's "Fleetwood Mac") Buckingham-Nicks appeared on, the performance often felt like a "Storytellers" session, and though it played well to a full house, it arguably would have come off better across several nights at a venue half the size – say, the Greek.

Some tales were illuminating and insightful, particularly Stevie's reminiscences of those heady San Francisco days in the '60s that led her to pen "Gypsy." Other comments, especially from increasingly self-satisfied Lindsey, tended to bog things down. Revealing the roots of a song is one thing, but to drone on and on in pseudo-profound fashion ("Los Angeles has a way of drawing you in on your own terms," good grief) ultimately saps strength and kills momentum. It's a bad habit of his, developed from small-theater solo touring where more ardent fans are willing to indulge his rambling yet haltingly paced thoughts. In an arena, however, it's often best to let the music do the talking.

Personally, I appreciated the telling little moments. The way old flames Stevie and Lindsey entered hand-in-hand, for instance – that was obviously sentimental, OK, but it also established the night's theme with sweetness. Likewise, the acoustic pairing of "Landslide" and a considerably slower, almost theatrical "Never Going Back Again" spoke volumes about the "complex and convoluted emotional history" Lindsey referred to earlier in the set.

An even more compelling (if utterly fleeting) glimpse of the real Mac, however, came nearly at the end – when Mick Fleetwood, looking more and more like Tolkein's Gandalf, strode gallantly across the stage, eyeing the crowd the whole time … and, as he approached John McVie, extended his arm for a job-well-done handshake without so much as looking at the bassist.

That's the Fleetwood Mac bond in a nutshell. They just know now – it's all instinctual. "Every time we get together it's different," Lindsey mentioned. True enough. But the core never changes.

Main set: Monday Morning / The Chain / Dreams / I Know I’m Not Wrong / Gypsy / Go Insane / Rhiannon / Second Hand News / Tusk / Sara / Big Love / Landslide / Never Going Back Again / Storms / Say You Love Me / Gold Dust Woman / Oh Well / I’m So Afraid / Stand Back / Go Your Own Way

First encore: World Turning (plus Mick Fleetwood solo) / Don’t Stop
Second encore: Silver Springs