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Fleetwood Mac is magical
By Rob Thomas

Don't stop thinking about tomorrow. Fleetwood Mac first sang that back in 1977, and 27 years later, it's still good advice.

For example, if you're a guitar tech for Fleetwood Mac, and the spring tour opens tomorrow at the Kohl Center in Madison, you might want to think ahead and make sure all of Lindsay Buckingham's guitars are in tune.

At least two were wildly out of tune, which brought Saturday's virtually sold-out show sputtering to a halt a couple of times during the three-hour show. And, oddly enough, the mishaps only made the members of Fleetwood Mac even more down to earth and likable, as Buckingham did push-ups and sit-ups on the stage while waiting. Vocalist Stevie Nicks (or "Stephanie Nicks," as band co-founder/drummer Mick Fleetwood said) chatted with the audience, recalling that such glitches were nothing new.

"Many times in 1968, we would go on stages where nothing worked," Nicks told the audience. "And look where we are today."

Where they are is in the midst of a worldwide tour, ostensibly in support of their 2003 album "Say You Will," but really to give devoted fans one more chance to see one of the most successful pop-rock bands in history. It's the band's first outing since 1989, although singer Christine McVie sadly opted not to participate.

And, aside from the guitars, everything else did work - not just the equipment but the songs, the singers, the players and the gracious, enthusiastic vibe that beamed into all corners of the arena, from fan to musician and back again.

While Fleetwood Mac's set at Summerfest last year was basically a greatest-hits set with a couple of new songs thrown in, this time around the band seems more comfortable playing new songs like "Forgiveness" and "Red Rover."

And, rather than just replicating the studio versions of their best hits, the band sometimes plays with them a little, adding a new, funky intro to "Stand Back" or redoing "Big Love" as a gritty solo acoustic number by Buckingham.

But when it came to the songs everybody paid the big bucks to hear, the band didn't fool around, featuring faithful versions of "Sara," "Rhiannon" and, to close the show, "Don't Stop" that got huge responses from the audience.

"Say You Will" originally began life as a Buckingham solo album, and you can sort of feel his hand pushing the band forward. Fleetwood and bassist John McVie seem just along for the ride, although Fleetwood delivered a maniacally over-the-top drum solo during the encore. Buckingham exerted both his vocals and his guitar playing with force and passion.

Nicks can no longer hit the high notes of songs like "Rhiannon," which means she's had to rework her vocal lines somewhat. But she's still a very appealing singer and a magnetic force onstage, still twirling around in her flowing gypsy robes, still utterly charming the crowd.

Nicks and Buckingham, who are ex-lovers, show each other more affection onstage than most husband-and-wife musical duos, with hugs, hand-holding and smiles aplenty.

You got the sense that the band was as happy to be standing next to each other as the audience was to be sitting in front of them.

Date: 2004-05-10         Number of views: 1834

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