Fleetwood Mac at Madison Square Garden,– Thursday, January 22nd, 2015, Reviewed
It’s only appropriate to start this review by this disclaimer – I have never been a fan of Fleetwood Mac and really only know the basics of this group’s lengthy history. The Peter Green years, the various line-up changes/permutations, the incorporation of Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham, the universal success of Rumours, etc. And having been on the cusp of adolescence in the mid-‘70’s, when Rumours was released, I was not unlike many who – truth being told – despised them because of the over-saturation.
However, time changes everyone; opinions shift and it cannot be argued that Rumours is anything less than a stellar album. Hits aside, every track is of a quality nature and there is no “filler” to clutter the album. So I’ve grown to appreciate it over the years (adding time and distance from it).
So in hearing that may well be the “classic” Fleetwood Mac line-up’s final tour (Nicks, Buckingham, John McVie, Mick Fleetwood and the return after 20-plus years of singer/keyboard player/songwriter Christine McVie), I thought it might be nice to experience them and see if I had been even more wrong for all those years. Happy to say I was, indeed, wrong. Consensus – a phenomenal performance. I have no hesitation in saying that because I know so little, I enjoyed them to no end. And hearing all those hits, which irritated me so many years ago, was a joy – and the musicianship left my head turned completely. The band exuded a warmth to the audience – Stevie Nicks, especially – and the crowd (which was a sell-out) responded in kind.
Opening with a powerful, tense and tight rendition of “The Chain”, the show was off and running. Immediately, the skill of Buckingham’s guitar playing (more on that later) could be seen and head and the vocal cycling of Buckingham, Nicks and Christine McVie was flawless (aided and abetted by three back-up singers, but that only enhanced, not helped, per se) was staggering. The next two offerings, “You Make Loving Fun” and “Dreams” were met with thunderous applause and didn’t disappoint – really, in many ways, the songs from Rumours are so well-rehearsed, they didn’t veer too far from the original recorded versions, which I appreciated.
During the eighteen-song show (with no intermission), amongst the earliest highlights were “Rhiannon” and “Tusk”, which included the film footage of the USC Trojan marching band and a taped brass, which was just fine – again, “powerful” springs to mind and was one of the best versions of the song I’ve ever seen them perform. “Say You Love Me” was another shining moment but for me, it was Lindsey Buckingham’s spotlight acoustic solo performance on “Big Love” that spun me. Watching and listening to his guitar playing left me wordless after – and I don’t think I could accurately describe his playing during this spot without sounding like an adolescent whose vocabulary can only spew hyperbole like “awesome”. But it was – and it is still somewhat indescribable. The best I can do is say I hope someone in that crowd filmed it and has/will put it up on YouTube. It has to be seen and heard to be understood. One of the finest, most on-fire things I’ve ever witnessed. Especially after finding out later that Buckingham can neither read nor write music.
On the heels of “Big Love” came a warm and emotional reading of “Landslide”, which received an even louder ovation than “Big Love” (!); “Gypsy”, “Little Lies” and “Gold Dust Woman” rounded out the set, all as energetic and intense and the whole of the show. And it has to be mentioned that the video images projected behind the band worked in a very tasteful manner with each song. But it was the closing number, “Go Your Own Way”, which was an absolutely frenzied free-for-all – this time Buckingham going wild on his electric guitar.
After a brief pause, the band returned for the encore: “World Turning” featured a six-minute drum solo from Mick Fleetwood, where he cajoled the audience to either bring it down (“nice and easy”) or get loud (“don’t be shy”). Usually moments like these make me cringe; this time I found it to be charming and fun. And of course, “Don’t Stop” had the whole crowd singing along.
There is a lot of baggage that comes along with this band, as most people know, but it’s heartening to see that with the passing of time, they’ve been able to parlay the pain of their collective experiences into such powerful and at times, lovingly emotional performances. Quite the spectacular evening.