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Record (07/08/2003), Mac Daddy < Fleetwood Mac < Main Page

Record (07/08/2003), Mac Daddy

Record (Stockton, CA), July 8, 2003 

Mac Daddy
Buckingham sets the tone for reconstituted Fleetwood Mac
By Brian McCoy, Record Staff Writer

Lindsey Buckingham has long wanted to lead Fleetwood Mac in his own idiosyncratic direction. You can find evidence as far back as "Tusk," the group's 1979 follow up to its megaselling "Rumours." Buckingham earned a production credit and a thank you from the band for going his own way to craft quirky little numbers that bore scant resemblance to the previous album's mainstream hits.

For all that, the guitarist continued to be regarded as just one-third of the Fleetwood Mac songwriting triumvirate. Fighting for album space with former love Stevie Nicks and sedate British keyboardist Christine McVie, the best he could manage on the band's later discs was to stand as a first among equals.

No more. As the near-capacity crowd learned Sunday night at Sacramento's Arco Arena, Fleetwood Mac 2003 is, essentially, Buckingham's band. The group performs tonight at the HP Pavilion in San Jose and July 23 at the Oakland Coliseum.

Much of Buckingham's current dominance is because of his enduring talent. Nearly 30 years after he and Nicks remade the former British blues band, the Palo Alto native remains one of rock's singular talents, a remarkable singer blessed with an incredible ear for pop melodies and a highly distinctive guitar style. Lean at 52, clad in jeans and an open white shirt, Buckingham onstage displayed the energy and ingenuity of a player half his age.

For all that, he still owes much of his position to circumstance. There is, most notably, the absence of McVie, who bailed on Fleetwood Mac amid the comeback tours of the late 1990s.

And then there's Nicks. 

Always a wraithlike presence, Nicks -- despite writing and singing many of the band's signature hits -- has always been the least-imposing member of Fleetwood Mac onstage. Moreover, she got off to a slow start Sunday, not reaching her full vocal thrust until nearly two-thirds of the way through the 130-minute set. When she wasn't singing, she wasn't even onstage.

All of which left Buckingham in the spotlight to lead rhythm section pals John McVie (bass) and Mick Fleetwood (drums) and a group of auxiliary musicians that included two vocalists, two percussionists, two guitarists and a keyboard player. Together, they ran through 24 songs from the Fleetwood Mac canon, emphasizing the hits but also throwing in the odd obscurity and a half-dozen tracks from the latest album, "Say You Will."

The new material was included, among other reasons, to drive home the point that Fleetwood Mac is a not nostalgia outfit. It's worth noting the disc and the tour grew out of Buckingham calling in Fleetwood and John McVie to play on a proposed solo album. Pleased with the results but unable to interest any major label in the project, it soon morphed into a Fleetwood Mac reunion.

"Say You Will" has drawn mixed reviews, but if the songs in the band's current set are any indication, it might be the best Fleetwood Mac album since "Mirage" (1982). Clearly energized by the new material, the musicians ripped through the opener, the topical "What's the World Coming To"; demonstrated that the title track merits mention with the best of the band's midtempo '80s hits; and imbued the bittersweet "Say Goodbye" with an aching melancholy.

As welcome as the songs and performances were, no one ponied up as much as $125 to hear "Peacekeeper," the current single. And opening with a backlit Fleetwood pounding out the rhythms of "The Chain," Fleetwood Mac sent the signal it wouldn't skimp on the hits. That message was reinforced a moment later, when Nicks broke into her "Rumours" signature, "Dreams."

At 55, Nicks is no longer the young, witchy woman of years gone by, and for much of the Arco performance she displayed a voice as thick as her face and frame. Dressed in black and standing before her ribbon-bedecked microphone, the woman on the video screens bore a remarkable resemblance to actress Mary Kay Place.

She does, however, remain the audience favorite. Roars greeted the opening chords of "Rhiannon," "Gypsy," the "Tusk" rarity "Beautiful Child," and even her solo hit, "Stand Back."

The adoration climaxed on the acoustic numbers, where Nicks dueted with Buckingham on "Landslide" and "Silver Springs." The once-romantic couple clearly continue to share a profound bond, and that connection comes through onstage.

Buckingham's own live persona is comparatively raucous. The guitarist waded into the audience, pogoed around the stage and even initiated a hoedown on "Go Your Own Way." His guitar work was just as varied, ranging from the near-bluegrass picking of "Never Going Back Again" to the rock-god riffing of "Don't Stop" to the incessant throbbing of "Big Love."

Fleetwood Mac has always been about the synergy that exists among the musicians and, yes, the soap opera of love, loss and substance abuse that grew out of it. As the band's current show demonstrates, things are a little easier these days, thanks in great part to the passing years and Buckingham's growing leadership.

Date: 2003-07-08         Number of views: 1504

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