Orange County Register (07/14/2003), Fleetwood Mac comes back strong
Orange County Register, July 14, 2003
Fleetwood Mac comes back strong
The band more than compensates for the missing Christine McVie with a performance that bests its 1997 reunion shows.
By Ben Wener
If asked to boil down the many reasons why Fleetwood Mac should be considered legendary, I'd insist an uncommon characteristic be placed a notch ahead of "Rumours": the group's remarkable ability to morph without sacrificing much, if anything, in the process. Most times they gain something no one expected.
Consider the new example.
Logic tells us that, without Christine McVie, this umpteenth incarnation of the Mac shouldn't work so well - certainly not as robustly as during its heyday. Most of that lineup is intact, but McVie played an important role, one even more relevant once Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks entered the picture.
A sharp but less emotionally flashy songwriter, she became the graceful fulcrum of a three-melodist seesaw, with the daring, sometimes explosive Buckingham at one end and, at the other, Nicks conjuring gypsy mystique.
Her loss may not be as significant as Buckingham's departure in '87. Never mind presence or integral musical acumen - his unique, pickless guitar style couldn't be replicated, even by two replacements. Yet without McVie, not only might a Mac show become a tug of war between former collaborators - occasionally contentious ones and, you're aware, lovers decades ago - but the vocal splendor that lifted so many of their classics to a rarefied status would be missing.
Logic says this can't possibly be as good. Then again, logic couldn't have predicted this once-heavy English blues band would become the greatest soft-rock outfit ever. So much for logic.
That Fleetwood Mac more than compensated for McVie's absence Friday night at Staples Center in its first of five Southland shows (they play Arrowhead Pond of Anaheim and San Diego Sports Arena this week) was accomplishment enough. But with seven supporting players, five of whom provided backing vocals, her musical contributions went unmissed and those vital harmonies were arguably stronger and lusher than before. Likewise, on two tunes that prominently feature McVie on record, Nicks was a minor revelation, proving that "World Turning" and "Don't Stop" could have done well with more of her holler and less of McVie's stately cool. What's more impressive, though, was that this nearly complete reunion of the Mac's most popular lineup came across far livelier - more engaged by both material and audience - than during its by-the-numbers regrouping six years ago.
Put that down to motivation. In retrospect, looking past the "wow-they're-back" factor that glossed over imperfection and boredom, "The Dance" and its tour now seem like the cash cows both were. At the time, everyone either needed financial or promotional help or was willing to play along out of compassion.
The difference today is enthusiasm, bolstered by pride in above-average "Say You Will" material, from which five of six pieces fit smoothly into a portrait of their past. The title cut, the lovely "Say Goodbye," a scaled-back arrangement of "What's the World Coming To" and especially "Peacekeeper" - portentously introduced by Buckingham with a quote from Laurie Anderson's "O Superman" - all resonated more deeply here than their polished studio counterparts.
I count only one miss: Given that late in the two-hour-plus set Buckingham had ample opportunity to soar during the creep of "I'm So Afraid" - not to mention deliver typically mesmerizing picking on a solo "Big Love" - I could have done without the similar but cumbersome "Come."
Overall, though - reinvigorated, ravishing (in Nicks' case) and with renewed reason to exist - this Mac performed as if someone had lit a fire underneath it, often to the point of racing through songs. In the case of speed-freaked takes on "Second Hand News" and "Tusk" (with simulated marching band finale), that wasn't detrimental; in fact, it freshened them up. In the case of "Dreams" and "Rhiannon," however, that left Nicks struggling to keep pace - her vocals, already buried in a bad mix that favored maniac-eyed Mick Fleetwood's booming tom-toms, now becoming clipped, even breathless.
But those were meager distractions made inconsequential by highlights - "Gold Dust Woman," expectedly, with a shawl-wrapped Nicks in lustrous bloom, but also the simpler standouts, like the country shuffle Fleetwood and bassist John McVie placed behind "Never Going Back Again." Or "Landslide," recently oversaturated courtesy of the Dixie Chicks: Everyone expects it to be touching, to bring knowing smiles from its author and her accompanist, but here well, it just had some indefinable extra something, maybe just the fact that it was LA (Nicks dedicated "Landslide" with gratitude and sincerity to the city "where all my dreams came true.")
Whatever the reason, this gig felt (at times) less like a Fleetwood Mac concert than a Buckingham-Nicks revival. That's what happens when you drop McVie - and take away "Over My Head" and "Say You Love Me" and "You Make Loving Fun." Instead, you get obscurities ("Beautiful Child") and solo smashes, like Nicks tossing in "Stand Back," when a better idea might have been sparring with Buckingham on "Stop Draggin' My Heart Around."
In any case, the whole of the mighty Mac provided grand, crowd-rousing entertainment that belied their middle age and virtually erased memories of that enervated '97 tour. Personal to all four players, but particularly Buckingham, who I know for a fact reads his press: If you don't see this reaction, to say nothing of your audience's rabid response, as encouragement to keep at it, you're all fools.
Thanks to Johnny Stew for posting this to the Ledge.
2003-07-14 Number of views: