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Memphis Flyer (11/12/1997), Won't Stop < Fleetwood Mac < Main Page

Memphis Flyer (11/12/1997), Won't Stop

Memphis Flyer, November 12, 1997

Won't Stop: Fleetwood Mac's return mirrors the die-hard attitude of Jurassic rockers.

by Matt Hanks

In the summer of '95, Fleetwood Mac found themselves slogging across the country on a dismal rock-and-roll revival tour, sandwiched between (God help them) REO Speedwagon and Pat Benatar. This ill-conceived tour was a vain attempt to promote The Mac's equally ill-conceived new album Time -- a total no-show artistically, and the worst-selling record in the band's 30-year career.

This is what it had come to. Fleetwood Mac, certainly one of the most storied entities in rock-and-roll history -- white-hot (not to mention white) blues practitioners of the '60s, financially well-endowed and critically vindicated rock juggernaut of the '70s, Top 40 mainstays of the '80s -- had become a cautionary tale.

What a difference two years makes. Presently, Fleetwood Mac are filling arenas, hoarding more MTV and VH1 airtime than artists half their age, and sitting at the center of one of the year's biggest media maelstroms. The reason for their turn of fortune is, for the most part, obvious. This is the first time that the Rumours-era lineup of the band (wrongfully cited by several writers as the "original" lineup. A round of applause for Peter Green, please, and a conciliatory nod to Bob Welch.) has toured in 15 years. But even the bankable magnetism of these five individuals -- Mick Fleetwood, John McVie, Christine McVie, Lindsey Buckingham, and Stevie Nicks -- doesn't account for the extent to which Mac-mania has taken hold.

Let's look at the Mac's peers. Take Peter Frampton, for instance. His '76 Comes Alive LP sold over 10 million copies, virtually inventing the AOR radio format and multi-platinum music-biz mindset that abetted Rumours' unprecedented success. At last report, our man Pete was knockin' 'em dead on the German club circuit. And how about the Eagles? Hell did indeed freeze over, and Mr.'s Henley, Frey, and company profited handsomely in the process. But theirs was a victory of hollow nostalgia and hard cash, nothing more.

Skeptics will accuse Fleetwood Mac of the same motivations, and they may be right. But that's hardly the point. You see, at their peak Fleetwood Mac -- and this is important -- were very, very good. Shoot back 20 years, and while the Eagles were churning out lobotomized West-Coast rubbish, and Peter Frampton was perfecting his speaking-guitar technique, Fleetwood Mac were creating some of the era's most evocative music.

The band's dual masterpieces -- Rumours and Tusk -- are caldrons of pop craft, studio precision, and punk (that's right, punk) subversion. In 1979, noted rock scholar Greil Marcus proclaimed that " if Fleetwood Mac is mainstream in its place in the music world, Tusk is radical in its refusal to the mainstream's limits I think the stand Fleetwood Mac has taken with Tusk is as brave as that Bob Dylan took with John Wesley Harding."

The fact that this "radical" and "brave" music was emanating from a group that could have given any daytime soap a run for its torrid dollar made Fleetwood Mac all the more enticing. No one could refuse them. Then or now.

Also, the fact that Fleetwood Mac have a firmer musical footing than the Framptons and Eagles of the world helps their current cause greatly. Though it's unlikely to increase their critical cache, the band's new live album The Dance won't diminish it either. And it makes for great copy.

Reportedly, the recording of The Dance had its share of missteps -- botched notes, fumbled lines, and the like. And as Fleetwood Mac roll across America, rumors (minus the "u") of bruised egos and flared tempers are starting to abound. But the band's fallibility has always been one of its most intriguing qualities. People are drawn to the reinvigorated Mac for the same reason that they cross continents to see the running of the bulls in Pamplona, Spain -- potential (if not imminent) disaster is a strong selling point.

In the case of The Dance, the music is, too. The five new songs range from intriguingly corny ("My Little Demon") to downright sublime ("Bleed to Love Her"). But let's not kid ourselves. We want the hits, and the Mac have an arsenal big enough to fill a boxed set. Among the old standbys, there are a few new revelations. The version of Christine McVie's "Everywhere" forgoes the over-the-top sheen that dogged the studio version, in favor of a more organic arrangement. Within that context, McVie's voice sounds better for wear.

The years have changed Nicks' too, her signature breathy delivery now replaced by a certain wistful dignity.

But The Dance's biggest surprise comes from Lindsey Buckingham. It's no secret that Buckingham is the group's strongest songwriter, but who knew he was such a whoop-ass guitar player? With meticulous finger-picking runs and soulful note-bending solos, it's obvious what Buckingham has been doing for the last 15 years -- practicing.

Speaking of hits, The Dance ends with one of the Mac's biggest -- "Don't Stop." It's a more appropriate capper than the band may realize. For a moment, lay asidea lingering images of the '92 Clinton campaign and consider the song's refrain in the here and now. The words carry an irony as thorny as the band that penned them:

Don't stop thinkin' about tomorrow
Don't stop. It'll soon be here
It'll be better than before
Yesterday's gone, yesterday's gone.

But it isn't really, is it? It'll be better than before because yesterday's still here. If it were gone, we'd be short a few dreams to recycle, and at least five people might be out of a job.

Fleetwood Mac
8 p.m. Friday, November 14th
The Pyramid

Thanks to Jeff Kenney for sending this to us.

Date: 1997-11-12         Number of views: 888

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