Contra Costa Times (07/08/2003), Buckingham dominates Fleetwood Mac's image
Contra Costa Times, July 8, 2003
Buckingham dominates Fleetwood Mac's image
By Tony Hicks
HOW DIFFICULT it must be to be married to either Lindsey Buckingham or Stevie Nicks while these two tour with Fleetwood Mac, which pulled into Sacramento's Arco Arena Sunday night for the first of three Bay Area shows.
Not only is the former couple spending months on the road together, but so much of the material the pair has produced for its band over the past three decades concerns their soap opera past. Then they spend a good portion of each concert with eyes locked, delivering the words to each other like there's not thousands of people sitting there watching.
Of course, that's exactly the reason they do most of it -- for the crowd's benefit. Though Fleetwood Mac bears the name of drummer Mick Fleetwood and bassist John McVie, the intense songwriting duo out front is why the band still even exists in 2003, especially now that third writer Christine McVie has retired.
It's been the Lindsey and Stevie show, to a certain extent, since the mid-'70s. But Sunday's show and new album, "Say You Will," both stand as evidence that, despite the feel-good notion spawned by the first real working reunion of the classic Fleetwood Mac lineup in 16 years, it's now the Buckingham show more than anything else.
Though Nicks wrote as many songs on the new record as Buckingham, it's his material that clearly fuels the record. Same for the live show. Though the straight-faced Nicks is right there onstage doing a slower version of her black-robed Wicca dance, and Fleetwood is a large presence making his Muppet faces, it's Buckingham's frantic energy, potent playing and youthful emotion fueling the band onstage. He's the only one who hasn't lost any gas over the years, though on Sunday he couldn't single-handedly fight away some overall lulls.
Might Buckingham's dominance create some tension with Nicks? You never can tell with these two. That Nicks' semi-flat energy level went up exponentially during her only solo song of the night, "Stand Back," was slight evidence of a bit of one-upmanship. Especially since the mostly middle-aged crowd went nuts
for it, while a stoic Buckingham turned over lead guitar duties to backing musicians and just sort of stood there.
Even if that's an exaggeration, that's what people want to see -- something sparking between these two. From the opener, "The Chain," to the classic "Dreams" and new single "Peacekeeper," the band still sounds great, despite a muddled sound mix that could have easily buried the vocals. The harmonies are the most natural thing in the world, though Nicks played it safe by avoiding many of her old high notes.
Buckingham's guitar playing was a close second on the bill of priorities to his stare-downs with Nicks. Always a good, if unorthodox, guitarist, Buckingham took chances with long sweaty solos, which made Fleetwood's clownish bongo and electrified chest pad solo later in the night seem even sillier, though after so many years Fleetwood's solo breaks are more for fun than having something to prove. But Buckingham does, which separates him from his bandmates. Looking at least a decade younger than his age, he was up there working like the guitarist of an opening band trying to make his name. His solo version of "Big Love" was so much better than the original, giving him room to get nearly violent with his signature finger-picking, earning a standing ovation.
That slid perfectly into Nicks' "Landslide," with just Buckingham and Nicks onstage (with about 10,000 people singing every syllable). They went even nuttier when they closed in together, and Nicks went behind Buckingham to hang onto his shoulders. The Lindsey and Stevie Love Show continued through Nicks' new song "Smile at You" and peaked later during Nicks' "Sliver Spring," which built into a climax that had Nicks glaring menacingly at her partner, while Buckingham slammed his foot against the stage.
But there really were other people onstage. While McVie was his old, immobile anchor of a bassist, Fleetwood got more into the act later in the show, busting out some tom-tom fills on "Tusk" and coming out to play a small drum set out front. Though his playing is still the group's backbone, he got a lot of help from on-stage percussionists. His value is more or less as band patron, overseeing things and acting as wide-eyed ringmaster.
The two-hour plus show predictably ended with "Don't Stop," the first song ever elevated into classic status by a U.S. President, thanks to Bill Clinton. One could read even more into it as a show-ender, especially where the never-ending energy of Buckingham is concerned. He seems willing to push his aging bandmates on into another decade.
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