For a group whose celebrated past, both in song and in real life, dealt with the pain caused when relationships cease, there sure was a lot of love in the air from Fleetwood Mac during their performance at the U.S. Airways Center in Phoenix on Thursday night, May 30, 2013. There was a love of the audience professed on separate occasions by singer Stevie Nicks, guitarist Lindsey Buckingham and drummer Mick Fleetwood. There was the special love for Phoenix mentioned by both hometown girl Nicks and Buckingham.
As for the relationship between Nicks and Buckingham, it may not have been “get a room,” love, but their hand holding, hugs and repeated compliments of one another on stage suggested any animosity between the two was long gone. Had Nicks and Buckingham been at this point in 1976, the bittersweet song writing that made “Rumours” the outstanding album it was, may never have occurred.
For two and half hours, the Buckingham/Nicks era of Fleetwood Mac was on full display. It may have taken Mick Fleetwood and bass player John McVie eight years before they found the right lead guitarist for their band with Buckingham, but ever since then they’ve been selling out arenas and did so once again in Phoenix. Thankfully for all, Buckingham insisted that his girlfriend at the time, Stevie Nicks, “a wonderful, brilliant lead singer,” as he called her, also join the band when he did.
The audience was already up and applauding before the band hit the stage. Mick Fleetwood’s tall stature made him visible even in the dim light as he took his place behind his kit. McVie followed closely and took his place to Fleetwood’s right side, a place where throughout the show, except to occasionally leave the stage, he did not vacate. Nicks and Buckingham came out hand in hand and took their places on opposite sides of the platform.
Once assembled, the band broke into “Second Hand News,” the first of seven songs from “Rumours,” to be played during their performance (there might have been more had Christine McVie, lead vocalist on “Rumours’” songs “Songbird” and “You Make Loving Fun” not retired from touring in the 1990’s).“The Chain” brought forth the anticipated fiery vocal exchange between Nicks and Buckingham. With “Dreams,” Nicks was ready to “get this party started.” She was a song or two off from when that was to happen.
Buckingham let the audience know that there are “still some chapters left in the book of Fleetwood Mac” as he introduced their first new studio song in a decade, “Sad Angel.” A good, up tempo number, “Sad Angel” made fans hope that the next chapter is more than just the four songs recently released by the band on “Extended Play.”
It could be argued that when Nicks sings such songs as “Rhiannon,” “Sara,” “Gypsy,” or “Gold Dust Woman,” that Fleetwood Mac is her band. McVie and Fleetwood do an outstanding job as her backing rhythm section, content to be present enough to compliment the songs without being overpowering. Although her trademark twirling is not as prominent as it used to be, Nicks’ voice can still remain captivating, as it was for “Landslide.”
But the risk taker of Fleetwood Mac is Lindsey Buckingham, as evident by his breaking the music business rule of, as he called it, “if it works, run it into the ground,” when he spearheaded the release of Fleetwood Mac’s 1979 adventurous album “Tusk.” Time and the audience’s response to the four song set from “Tusk” gave Buckingham the vindication he deserved. Buckingham was highly animated and energized for the album’s title track, a number that grew from a very slow, eerie, beginning to a frenzied guitar effort by Buckingham accompanied by the USC marching band shown on the enormous video screen at the back of the stage.
The momentum created from the “Tusk,” set slowed when Buckingham was the sole performer on “Big Love,” followed by just him and Nicks performing together on the next three numbers. The slowdown in momentum did not translate to a slowdown in quality. Buckingham’s guitar work was mesmerizing and Nicks began to hit her stride vocally.
The final four songs of the regular set gave everyone a chance to see their favorite version of today’s Fleetwood Mac. Is Stevie Nicks your main draw? Then “Gold Dust Woman,” with Nicks at her mystical best satisfied as did her solo output, “Stand Back.” Can’t get enough of Lindsey Buckingham’s amazing guitar work? He blew the roof off the arena with his playing on “I’m So Afraid.” Like the band as a whole? Then “Go Your Own Way,” with its catchy melody, upbeat tempo and well sung-a-long lyrics would suffice.
Although the quartet of Buckingham, Nicks, McVie and Fleetwood are who the audience has come to see, the live version of Fleetwood Mac would not be the success it is without those in the background as well. Keyboardist Brett Tuggle, guitarist Neale Heywood and backup vocalists, Sharon Celoni and Lori Nicks, although kept in the shadows most of the night, gave Fleetwood Mac its on stage fullness.
The night ended with two encores, the first with the crowd pleasing tunes “World Turning,” which included a Mick Fleetwood drum solo and “Don’t Stop.” The second encore included one of Nicks’ better songs, “Silver Springs.” If you weren’t moved by the vocal interplay between Nicks and Buckingham on that song, then you probably had left after the first encore.
If the Phoenix concert is any barometer for those that have tickets to Fleetwood Mac’s upcoming shows, then expect no opening act, plan on the band starting about 20 minutes after the scheduled start time and be prepared for a stellar two and half hour stroll through the highlights of the last 37 years of Fleetwood Mac. It’s okay to say that you loved them.
Set List: Second Hand News | The Chain | Dreams | Sad Angel | Rhiannon | Not That Funny | Tusk | Sisters of the Moon | Sara | Big Love | Landslide | Never Going Back Again | Without You | Gypsy | Eyes of the World | Gold Dust Woman | I’m So Afraid | Stand Back | Go Your Own Way
Encore 1: World Turning (with Mick Fleetwood drum solo) | Don’t Stop
Encore 2: Silver Springs | Say Goodbye