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The Ledge (12/19/1997), (Exclusive essay by John B) < Fleetwood Mac < Main Page

The Ledge (12/19/1997), (Exclusive essay by John B)

Posted by John B. on December 19, 1997 at 11:11:43:

The music, the minutiae

Yeah, I know, it's oooooooold news (ah, the simple joy of repeating keys) but I figured, What the heck? I'm bored! I want to go to another FM concert! It looks like I'll never have the chance! So I'm gonna relive some of the details I left out in my first Concert Review Novella.

And remember, in case of emergency (severe boredom, tedious reading, total lack of interest) there's always the BBB (browser "back" button).

So anyway, I'd like to begin with a salute to technology. (You can guess the finger with which I'm saluting.) I think everyone will agree with this simple point: We enjoy all the benefits that technology has given us, like safe, fuel-efficient cars to get us from point A to point B quickly. And yet, when we are in one of them, lined up behind several more of them, only a single short block from the concert venue, and it is 7:05, and we still don't get IN the venue until 7:45 because the FREAKING traffic is so congested that people pushing babies in strollers are literally ZOOMING by you--you, in your car with a speedometer that tops off at around 125 m.p.h., unless, of course, you're at a DEAD stop--and you're suffering the humiliation of people hearing you curse because you realize, only too late, that you left the back vent window open, whereas you previously thought only your wife heard you use some language that you had kept in reserve for 20 years, waiting for that special occasion--well, that's when technology suddenly doesn't seem like your best friend.

The funny thing is, we didn't even know exactly where this awful line was leading, but we knew it was in the direction of the Pepsi Arena, and my thinking at this point was this: If this line that in which we've been waiting turns out to be for a drive-in window at the nearest Burger King ("Pepsi Arena?" asks the policeman directing traffic. "Hey, buddy, the parking garage has been closed for an hour. But if you want a Whopper Combo, just stay in line. I hear it's only an extra 39 cents to King Size the fries. Now get moving!"), I was going to shut the car off, leave it in the middle of the street in front of the arena, and simply go in with my wife. At that point, you see, I was angry enough to pay the towing charge, civil fines and whatever else. We all lose our temper from time to time, and with it goes our sense of reason. But I'll be damned if I was going to miss one note of The Chain just because I would've been too cheap to pay several hundred dollars in fees and fines.

Some things are worth more than money.

But not garage parking, for crying out loud! Because the unfortunate payoff here is that when we got to the front of the line, we saw The Sign: $7 to put your car here. We won't wash it, vacuum it or even guarantee that it'll be here when you come back for it, but in the meantime, you'll have to give us seven bucks for the privilege of leaving it here, or going back out in the streets, and since it's 15 minutes to concert time, that ain't such a good idea, now is it, Bub?

No, it wasn't. So in we went, and as we entered I heard one of the attendants say to the other, "How're we doin' for space up top?" I didn't bother to listen for the answer, because my thinking was, again, that I was going to park in that *%$%#! garage somewhere, anywhere, and they were not going to stop me. I'd come too far (140 miles) and too long to turn back--or get turned back.

I'm an emotional person, I'll admit it. Many feelings issue forth from my heart: love, compassion, sympathy, laughter, sadness. At 7:45 the night of the concert, however, I felt violence. Yes. Yes. Violence. If all else failed, that would be my ticket in there. Stevie, Chris, Lindsey, John and Mick had flown all that way to play for ME ME ME, and I wasn't about to let them down.

And my wife was in enthusiastic lockstep right behind me.

So in we went. As I noted previously, we had two tickets we wanted to sell, but scalping, selling at face value, or giving the stupid things away isn't my/our cup of tea. And when we walked down Scalper's Alley, hand in hand, and I limply announced that we had two $60 tickets CHEAP, a few people in two or three groups turned around with an interested look. I say "a few" because, although I'm not a rocket scientist, I quickly discerned who the unbelievably angry looking people were in each group--the ones who looked less interested in buying my tickets than c-c-c-cutting my throat. They were The Scalpers (why do these people all look the same? They dress for the part, they don't shave, and they've got the shifty-eye/sideways-look business down to a science; half the time you don't even realize you're being propositioned until the guy turns to you and says "THESE TICKETS! ***HOLE!), each of whom was about to close on a deal until I made my untimely announcement. By then, my parking anger had diminished, my good reason had returned, and I pulled my wife toward the seats.

I felt my throat, happy to still have it intact, and we proceeded to bump into approximately 127,000 people on our crowded journey toward our seats.

From the moment we entered the actual seating part, I must confess a certain unfortunate snobbish feeling that overcame me. We had our seventh-row seats, and though we're basically broke all the time, this was one time when we were in Primo Land. I felt people watching us as we strutted--er, walked--down, down, down, down, all the while keeping my eyes on the area that I knew was OURS.

As the security person took our tickets and checked them over, I felt a rush of elitism as we passed the test and were let through the gate onto the floor. I looked back at those who poor unfortunates who were left behind, but I felt a secret thrill when our security guy quickly closed the gate so that none of THEM could get in. I fully realized, of course, that until six days previous I WAS one of them until my fateful trip to TicketMaster's Website and Lottery Draw. (I hope I have that whole scam figured out for our next concert.)

Then, onward, past The Good Seats and onto, oooooooooh, The Grrrreat Seats! There, right in front of us, was the piano upon which Christine would weave her "Songbird" magic for the umpteenth time in a pretend encore.

The guy in front of us was one of those guys that observes all the stuff that nobody really cares about and tells it to his wife in a voice loud enough so that everybody around him can hear. He was practically shouting in my ear before I acknowledged that, No, I hadn't noticed the lighting guy perched up above and No, I didn't know that he'd be sitting there all through the concert and Wow, I surely never would've guessed....Well, you get the point.

I was struck by how nobody around us really looked like they were into the band. While any of them might've owned a vinyl copy of Rumours, I doubt any of them had listened to it much in the last 20 years. I tried to stir some enthusiasm, and suddenly felt more like a hormone-crazed teenager on his first date than a grown-up at a concert. Nobody wanted this thing to get going more than I; in fact, nobody seemed to care whether it ever got going.

Hundreds of people were still getting beer and hot dogs 15 minutes after the concert was scheduled to begin. I admired their sense of refreshment. Morons...

In my previous post, I described what it was like as the lights went down and The Five appeared in the shadows. God bless everyone in our section--in all three front sections, in fact--because as Mick started the downbeat they all stood up. It certainly relieved some of the peer pressure that I was certain would accompany my determination to stand up even if the mopes around me were going to sit.

The mopes came through in grand fashion.

Christine was directly in front of us, giving everyone those thumbs-ups and that polite smile that are her trademarks. Looking at her, I felt a sense of great desperation, however, because I could see in her eyes and body language that she more than the rest was going through the motions. She looked burnt out. In my previous concert post, I said that I felt she'd not said or done anything that indicated a desire to continue with this enterprise, and it was this polite-but-detached manner to which I was referring, as well as interviews I've seen and read since the tour began. Unfortunately, as we all know, she called it quits a few days later.

I'll digress here and say that I think the concept of determining "looks"--how pretty or handsome a person is--is shallow, misguided, destructive and a complete waste of time.

Having said that, I'd like to discuss Christine's looks.

She is the best-looking 54-year-old woman I have ever seen. She has apparently discovered the fountain of youth, since she looks better now than she did 20 years ago, in spite of all the drinking and drugs she did.

Her smile is infectious, very sweet, her hair is beautiful, and she carries herself gracefully. I have spoken previously about the unfortunate Oedipal feelings that surface when I see her; she's old enough to be my mother, and that creates...disturbances. There's some weird irony that her husband is named Eddy and he's 12 years her junior, and I'm 19 years her junior and I sorta wanna be her...Oedi. Her Oedipal/Eddy Pal.

Oh well, enough of that. I had other similar problems later in the concert, but more on that in a minute.

I've already spoken of my gratitude to technology; it inspired the same kind of wonder in me as I sat in the seventh row, virtually unable to hear anything resembling music. The sound at our seats was horrible, but who cared? There they were, doing The Chain (I think)!

John was acting a bit goofy all evening; he seemed to be romancing the speakers directly behind him for much of it. When I heard people screaming "Birthday boy!" I surmised--unfairly, perhaps--that he had possibly partaken in a little pre-concert birthday merriment.

Awesome bassist, though. Loved watching him perform his craft.

After the excitement of The Chain wound down, Stevie sang Dreams. It is here that I must confess something else: I was cheating on my wife. For, you see, I believe that during that number, I fell in love with Stevie. I could do without the twirling (which she minimized; I think she realizes at this point that she would be a parody of herself if she did too much), and I don't care that she didn't move around a heck of a lot. If you're close enough to look into her eyes, as we were, you see the real Stevie, the one who sings her lyrics with such conviction and who wrings every ounce of emotion out of her songs AND her audience. Anyone who isn't completely drawn in by this woman as she sings either has ice in their veins or little appreciation for musical artistry. The woman is truly enchanting. And when she sings those Dreams lyrics, and you know the story, it's even more compelling.

Lindsey's live rendition of I'm So Afraid is, as has been noted before, worlds apart from the one in The Dance, which is universes apart from the studio version. At first, my wife and I didn't think the ol' boy was going to make it to his microphone; he sauntered slowly, and lifted his head at the last second.

But when he delivered, man oh man, he delivered. And he stood, at the end, right in the spotlight, literally drinking in the unconditional adulation of which he has spoken, and which he has earned.

There's only one Mick Jagger, but damn it, there's only one Lindsey Buckingham. Mick is in amazing shape and his stage presence is unquestioned, but he doesn't have to lug around a heavy guitar and play complex leads and rhythms and textures while singing lead and backup, either. Lindsey is a phenomenal, hyper performer, part super-serious musician, part goofball, and it's no surprise that our collective eye was focused on him throughout much of the night. His guitar work is incredible and incredibly intelligent. I've never seen a musician who seemed more interested in supporting and strengthening a piece rather than laying low through a song until it's time to show off. The beauty and the magic of Lindsey's playing is that often you find yourself really getting into a portion of a song, and suddenly you realize that it's some weird lead or combination of leads or 16-layer guitar part that Lindsey has worked out for that part of the song. (His playing throughout the studio version of Gypsy is a classic example, but it's prevalent throughout most of their songs.)

And you know, you gotta love the guy when you watch The Dance, and they're doing Over My Head, and it starts out "Well you can take me to paradise" and then he does that harmonic lead on guitar right after that line, just like in the studio version. I think the film is edited at that point to give that choppy, stuttering appearance (I forget the technical term for it). I remember thinking the first time I saw it: he could've easily gotten away without playing the notes that way; nobody would've notice. But because he's Lindsey, the sound is all-important, and so we're treated to harmonic leads.

There's only one Lindsey Buckingham. When he goes on tour, I'm going (quickly) to get my tickets.

Funny thing about Dreams and most of the other Stevie/Lindsey-interactive songs was that there was no Stevie/Lindsey interaction. Very, very little.

Now, I'll gasp my final words on this well-overdone subject (although I've probably already made that promise somewhere along the way), because I think that one can take an educated guess, seek some middle ground, and then put it to rest and see what happens.

Many people voiced disappointment in their concert reviews over the phony nature of their interactions, especially later in the tour, although several noted the seemingly genuine interaction in the early part of the tour.

I think reasonable persons can say, with confidence, that when you're with someone 43 nights out of 50 or so, it would be impossible--repeat, IMPOSSIBLE--to do ANY SINGLE ACT (you know the act to which I'm referring) with any degree of enthusiasm after a while. So I surely didn't expect them to embrace during Landslide and be able to conjure the emotion they certainly felt during The Dance.

I think the emotional footsie on The Dance was absolutely genuine. That's why I think they were more into it in the early part of the tour, and why she was obviously crying in the video. She said she cried through much of the reunion concert, and you can tell by her voice and manner that she is/was.

But this little spark of passion could last only so long, and by the end of the tour, they had played it out, both for themselves and their audience. Their curiosity about each other was quenched, and their need for closeness had been met, I believe. Nobody will ever convince me that they're over each other. She has made statements, and continues to make statements, that indicate she still carries a torch for him. He seems a bit more detached, but face it: she's the romantic, the poet, while he's married to his production, his music, his guitar. She's attached to her music no doubt, but she sings constantly of love lost and what coulda/shoulda been. His lyrics are often "See ya!" It's a Venus and Mars thing.

I don't know what's on their minds--I guarantee they're not sure, either--but they probably realized a long time ago that they're better off as friends. I think Stevie will be forever conflicted emotionally over the situation, because she loves him and in some way wants to be with him, but she knows that it's better she stay away from living with him--yet still be in a band "for another 100 years" (her words, remember?).

Yes, they parted unofficially about 20 years ago, but they never married and neither has settled down permanently with anyone. The resolution that helps cement the end of a relationship has never come. That's why she said in that interview that she and Lindsey hadn't really broken up until that episode where he officially quit the band. Well, that was 11 years after they supposedly had already broken up! So it's reasonable to conclude that in some ways they've never broken up.

But, in the same way that life is so complex for the rest of the four or five billion on the planet, there is no black-and-white to the situation. They'll probably go to their graves with a piece of each of them always wanting to be with the other, but unable to for reasons both complex and simple. It's no different for them than it is for you and me.

But it's sad, too. Just like the break-up of the band: so close, yet so far.

I got a kick out of Stevie's pre-Landslide message that "I know I say the same thing every night, but it's true: without you, there's no reason for us to do this song." Interesting. Think her assistants had been reading the Web and seeing her fans' growing discontent with the same old speech? Lindsey's speeches were greatly altered. I'm sure he got sick of saying the same thing over and over, and perhaps someone clued him in, too.

I think "Not That Funny" deserves a special mention, because this song is so great live. Some people have posted in the past that they love it live but don't care for it on the record (I see no need to single anybody out here; okay, Chiiiiiiillllllliiiiii D.?). Chili (there's that name again!) has mentioned that even Lindsey has said the song takes on a new life live. I really like the studio version--he sounds like he's having a good time being a goof--but live, the song is just amazing. When Lindsey broke into that circus-like intro (which leads quickly to a circus-like atmosphere), he immediately signaled to the audience that they were in for an outrageous ride.

Everyone knows what went on during the song, but I think some people were put off by Mick's vest solo. I think it went on a bit too long, but truthfully I think that break was as much to give the band a rest as anything else. So I didn't mind it.

If you hate kid stories, skip this paragraph: We listen to Tusk (album) constantly at our house, and the older boys love all of it, but they get really goofy during Not That Funny. One evening, shortly before dinner, we were all answering questions with "It's not that funny, is it?" A little while after we sat down to eat, our two-year-old got cranky (surprise!) and when I gently asked him to stop waving his fork, he threw it down onto his dish and screamed, "It's not that funny, IS it?!"


I still don't understand what happened near the end of the concert. After the last song (before the encores), people BEGAN LEAVING. Huh? Lots of 'em. I've never seen anything like that before. Then many people who stayed for the first encore LEFT BEFORE THE SECOND ENCORE. What???

I just don't understand. What is the psychology here?

Anyway, it's a shame that they've called it quits, because those pitch-perfect pipes of Christine's will now have no public outlet. Her voice should be heard by the hundreds of thousands who want to hear it. It's just beautiful. But, her life is her own, and no one can quarrel with her decision.

I remember something George Harrison said a few years ago, when he went on tour and played some of his old Beatles songs. He remarked that those songs were basically sitting there, virtually forever dormant, so he thought he should at least give them one more airing.

I feel the same about the Mac's music. It's a shame that those songs won't be played by them anymore. They're just too good to collect dust.

I don't think any of this falls under the category of idol worship or ridiculous adulation. Their music just moves me--in fact, it moves many of us. That's why people dance; they feel a need to respond somehow to what they're hearing. You can't explain it, but ya gotta do it. Ditto our obsession with this whole thing.

Oh well.

Guess I'll just have to find somewhere else to spend hundreds of dollars and countless hours of emotional unrest. (Are you listening, Mick?)

I know. Itıs not that funny, is it?

Thanks to Bonnie for reposting this to The Ledge.

Date: 1997-12-19         Number of views: 1327

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