Saturday, 28 September 2013

Gig Review - Fleetwood Mac at the 02, Tuesday 24 September 2013

Despite new new material being worked on, from which a 4-track EP has recently emerged recently, it's been a full ten years since the last full Fleetwood Mac album was released. As with 2009's 'Greatest Hits' tour then, the latest trek is focused on past glories - particularly  the Rumours album - but somehow this didn't make it feel too much like pure nostalgia and the band seem to have largely escaped being branded with the 'oldies' tag.
I personally prefer the albums made either side of it, but Rumours remains an undisputed classic and two of it's highlights -  Second Hand News and The Chain -  certainly made for a stunning one-two punch to get things rolling (and Dreams, which followed, wasn't too shabby either). After a run of such instantly recognisable material,  it was perhaps brave to introduce a new song into the set, but Sad Angel went down well with the crowd. For the most part the set was drawn from the band's three late-70s albums, including the obvious hits - Rhiannon, Tusk, Sara, Go Your Own Way, Don't Stop - but also some deep cuts, most notably the Tusk tracks Not That Funny and Sisters of the Moon.
Augmented by a small group of backing musicians and vocalists, the four remaining band members commanded centre stage and made for an impressively tight unit, anchored by the rhythm section that gave them their name.
Mick Fleetwood, was, as ever, a monster on the drums, but usually displayed his prowess by playing 'within' the songs, and only had a couple of chances to really show off - most notably during his manic solo on World Turning. John McVie, has a reputation for shunning the spotlight, but his presence was strongly felt (much more so than in New Zealand a few years ago, where he really seemed to be hiding!) and he appeared to be enjoying himself immensely, as did the rest of the band.
The delightful Stevie Nicks was in fine form. Having seen her twice before (once solo and once with the Mac) I would have to say that this trumped those earlier appearances. Her voice has understandably changed over the years - it is now much deeper, but also richer than before - and as strong as it ever was (and not even vaguely goatlike as far as I'm concerned!), so no, her songs don't sound identical to the recorded versions from 30+ years ago, but they certainly do sound wonderful.
Undoubtedly the star of the show throughout though was Lindsey Buckingham. Amongst the many highlights at which he was front and centre were his solo acoustic rendition of Big Love, which deserved the much-abused epithet of tour de force - one man and an acoustic guitar should not be able to make an arena-sized venue crackle with that much energy, and his ability to transform the same space right down into living-room intimacy when joined by Nicks for Landslide immediately afterwards further demonstrated his versatility. But perhaps his greatest moment was the climactic end solo of I'm So Afraid which had the audience absolutely spellbound and deservedly earned him the most sustained applause of the night.
I doubt anybody who wasn't part of it will ever fully understand the Buckingham/Nicks relationship as it's developed over the years, but they do genuinely seem to have left any lingering bitterness behind them, even if they were perhaps trying to appear 'closer' to each other on stage than they are in reality. Well, there's nothing wrong with a bit of 'show' and playing up to an audiences expectations, even if it did veer towards the cheesy end of the spectrum at times.
If you were to hunt for weak spots you wouldn't find many - I've never been a huge fan of Gold Dust Woman and Say Goodbye was a tad underwhelming as a finale, but in a set that extended well past two and a half hours, and took in a couple of dozen songs, the hit rate was more than acceptable. In some ways it's fortunate that there's still a noticeable Christine McVie-sized hole in the band these days, as it allowed room in the set for some of the more obscure numbers that were featured. Aside from Don't Stop the former Mrs McVie's songbook was not represented, so many big hits (Say You Love Me, Over My Head, You Make Loving Fun, Everywhere, Little Lies, etc - I think many people would be surprised to realise just how many key songs she contributed to the band!) were absent. But then so too were the early hits from the Peter Green years, it just goes to show the embarrassment of riches the band has in their wider catalogue. The icing on the cake would have been to have been at one of the later London shows where Christine guested on Don't Stop but I have no complaints and can only hope that the band get a full new album ready for release before too long to prompt a quick return. Though any other excuse will also suffice!