Fleetwood Mac. Pepsi Center. 04.01.15
Fleetwood Mac were a little before my time. Having formed in 1967 as a British blues band, Mick Fleetwood had already seen the complete transformation of personal and sound by the time I was born. In fact, up until recently, I thought the Buckingham-Nicks line-up represented the original Fleetwood Mac. As it turns out, Rumours was actually their eleventh album…and it beat me into this world by exactly four days. That was an amazing time for Fleetwood Mac as a band, but it was also a tumultuous time for its members. There are almost as many stories and documentaries about the drug-fueled, incestuous nature of the band as there are songs by the band, so I won’t delve too deep into those right now, but I will say that Lindsey Buckingham, Stevie Nicks, Christine McVie, John McVie and Mick Fleetwood are shining examples of ‘what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger’.
The fact that I was four-days-old when Rumours was released, yet every song has been ingrained in my head ever since I’ve understood the English language, just speaks to the longevity of Fleetwood Mac’s music. The fact that those five musicians can put their past behind them and continue to perform those songs, 38 years after they were recorded, just speaks to the resilience of Fleetwood Mac as a band. As I watched them perform at the Pepsi Center last night, I couldn’t help but think about their much publicized past. Every time Nicks looked at Buckingham, or more importantly, looked away, I wanted to be inside her head. Every time they welcomed Christine back, I had to wonder about her relationship with her ex-husband, who happened to be standing next to her on bass. As I watched Fleetwood Mac perform their 73rd show on this tour, I couldn’t help but see them as individuals. I couldn’t help but read into the oh-so personal lyrics they were singing. The music was amazing, but the whole thing played out in a very theatric way. I realize I might be applying my own color to paint the picture I want, but this is how last night’s “On With The Show” went down from my perspective.
Act I: Reunion
In which our ex-lovers find themselves together among a group a mutual friends (and viscous rumours) from their shared past.
“Chain keep us together, running in the shadow”
Fleetwood Mac are no strangers to the Pepsi Center. They just played there a year or so ago. The difference last night, as each member of the band pointed out several times, was the return of Christine McVie. After opening things up with the band-written “The Chain”, Christine was to make her presence known, from behind her keyboard, with “You Make Loving Fun” . At 71-years-young, she didn’t look a day over 50, but her vocals weren’t as strong as they could have been. The same could be said for everyone in the band though. Things just weren’t sounding right in the first part of the night. Nicks killed “Dreams” at Red Rocks back in 2011, but it didn’t come off as strong last night. Buckingham seemed to have the most energy up front, but “Second Hand News” came off a little muffled as well. The arena sound might have been to blame, but by the time they took a step back from Rumours so Nicks could resurrect “Rhiannon”, things were sounding much better. The ever changing background (with hydraulic lights that expanded and shrunk headroom on demand) projected Mary Leader’s possessed protagonist as an enlightened flower child while Nicks time traveled. The show started with an extremely solid setlist, but everyone seemed a little awkward and off kilter. It was as if they were a group of old friends (and lovers) who were feeling each other out after many years apart…with Buckingham and Nicks being a beacon of awkwardness infecting the others.
Act II: Rage
In which our ex-lovers are forced to face the past and end up hurling their demons at each other…and anyone else who gets in their way.
“Don’t say that you love me!”
As the set continued with Buckingham’s experimental “Tusk”, things got dark. As images of elephants marched across the set, the sound also morphed into something stronger, and darker…and better. This was the first part of the night where I felt that the musicians were feeling something real on that stage…and by proxy, we all felt something real as well. Buckingham spoke about the ups and downs of the people around him. He also spoke of karmic circles allowing the band to persevere. He spoke of a lot of things, but his dark songs and his powerful, angry disposition were what defined this part of the set. Nicks seemed to fall under his spell as she channeled “Sisters of the Moon”, looking out at the audience as if we represented the abyss.
Act III: Reconciliation
In which all the hurt and anger turns into sadness, and our ex-lovers find themselves drawn to each other by a mutual yearning for a love long lost.
“But time makes you bolder
Even children get older
And I’m getting older too”
And from the darkness comes the light. Buckingham and Nicks were left alone for the middle part of the set. Buckingham professed his “Big Love”, claiming the song represented an echo of who he used to be. Nicks answered with “Landslide”, before they both promised they were “Never Going Back Again” – knowing it was a lie as it escaped their mouths. You could almost see the young couple hanging out in San Francisco in the late-60s…singing at house parties, opening for Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin, hanging out with Carlos Santana on Haight St., and shopping at The Velvet Underground. I’m sure it was all an act, but those years seemed to reflect in each other’s eyes as well…and those younger versions of themselves led us to the best part of the night.
Act IV: Rapture
In which all the negative energy bursts into a burning flame of desire and consumes our
“Lightning strikes maybe once maybe twice
Oh and it lights up the night”
Christine introduced “Over My Head” as a song from that “exciting time” when “Stevie and Lindsey” joined the band. That led Nicks further down memory lane. It would be dishonest not to mention she seemed drunk as she told stories about meeting Lindsey and getting her start in music, but she also became that reckless young girl we’ve heard so many stories about. “Gypsy” came across as Nicks at her most honest. She sang it with purpose and her voice backed her up with that witchy woman rasp that we all know and love. It was a highlight of the night and it was followed by two more. “Little Lies” and an extended “Gold Dust Woman” kept the momentum going. The whole band was whipped into frenzy for that last part of the set. The backup singers became more than just shadows on the wall. Mick came alive behind the kit – the crazy-eyed Mad Hatter seemed like a little kid as he beat on his drums like a spoiled brat who just wasn’t getting his way. For just a moment, Fleetwood Mac seemed like a happy family and everything was alright in the world.
Act V: Resolution
In which reality sets in and our ex-lovers realize that no shared future exists between them and that they must each go their own way once again.
“You can go your own way
go your own way”
The end has never been so sweet. “Go Your Own Way” was the perfect example of a band in perfect sync. The crowd went ballistic. The band members went ballistic. Buckingham showed off guitar skills I had no clue he possessed. Nicks gave her Whirling Dervish act a spin. We were no longer in the Pepsi Center…we were in Golden Gate Park in 1977…and we were all ageless.
The encore was a well-deserved victory lap for the classic line-up of a band called Fleetwood Mac. It was also time for their namesake to take center stage. Mr. Fleetwood delivered an inspired drum solo during “World Turning”, and then he introduced everyone in the band (calling Buckingham a brilliant guitar player, Nicks a poet, Christine a songbird, and John his dearest friend), but he saved the best for last. The 6’ 5” man behind the stack came out front to introduce himself…and his red hat, red shoes, tap dancing skills and shining personality. He assured us that he loved us all and we should all love each other as well. He also assured us that he was just a little mad.
Fleetwood Mac were a little before my time, and I have my doubts that they love (or even like) each other as much as they pretend to, but I have the utmost respect for what they do on that stage. They don’t try to hide the skeletons in their closets; they parade those bones out for all to see night after night. I’m sure they do it for the money, but it has to be more than that. I think they also do it for the songs. They do it for the music and the rush of being on that stage. But mostly I think they do it because, like their leader in the red shoes, they are all just a little mad. And thank god for that!
You Make Loving Fun
Second Hand News
I Know I’m Not Wrong
Sisters of the Moon
Say You Love Me
Never Going Back Again
Over My Head
Gold Dust Woman
I’m So Afraid
Go Your Own Way
World Turning/Drum Solo