For 50 years, through feuds and fads and fatalities, jugs and drugs, hits (and mega-hits) and hiatuses, Fleetwood Mac has survived the perils, excesses and vicissitudes of being a famous rock n’ roll band. Through it all, the one constant has been its exuberant drummer, the genial giant Mick Fleetwood.
From blues greats Peter Green (a Clapton-level Bluesbreaker) and Danny Kirwan to hitmaker and Traffic alumnus Dave Mason (Feelin’ Alright) to the Big Mac of them all, Lindsay Buckingham - storied members all - the Mac endures with a golden aura.
And here is Fleetwood, in 2019, bug eyed and as enthusiastic as a kid with a shiny new toy, jubilantly presenting the latest lineup of his ensemble, larger and better than ever. While they once toured as a quintet, Fleetwood Mac now includes an extra keyboardist and guitarist, two vocalists and a percussionist. But that’s not all. There is considerable complementary star power with Neil Finn of Crowded House on vocals and guitar and Mike Campbell, longtime Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers’ lead guitarist.
As ever, stoic John McVie anchors the S.S. Fleetwood Mac on bass, with honey-voiced melody maker courtly Christine Perfect McVie on keyboard and the iconic often-duplicated but never equaled Stevie Nicks up front, the winsome witch, the gypsy princess whirling and twirling and still conjuring magic with her cosmic croak.
Exhausted but game, they have just landed from Australia and New Zealand with Boston the first stop of another American tour. In fact, Stevie apologizes for the April show they had to cancel because of her flu.
All is forgiven. The Boston Garden is packed for the return of the revered Mac who come out blazing with beloved monster hits which ignite the crowd to pump their fists, sing along and hug each other. Two-thirds of the nineteen-song set are from the mid- and late-70’s albums Fleetwood Mac and Rumors, which account for almost half of the 120 million units they have sold worldwide.
And why not? The Chain and Dreams and Say You Love Me are branded into the ethos of our culture. Fleetwood’s beat, McVie’s thump, Christine’s piano and voice and Stevie’s yearning yowls and triumphant paeans: here they are, before our eyes and ears. Only Lindsey is missing but not really. He has, willingly or not, bequeathed The Songs, that trove of indelible pop confection. Fortunately, Finn and Campbell are worthy warriors, deserved inheritors of the sonic grail.
Once, two generations ago, they were a blues band. In tribute to those years, they resurrect two hits, Oh, Well and Man of The World. However, it’s a feminist version and extended jam of Black Magic Woman, which they (not Santana) wrote, crooned seductively by Stevie that surprises and delights the multi-generational sold out arena. When they segue into Rhiannon, paroxysms of pleasure, clouds of happy gas, emit into the atmosphere.
When Finn croons Don’t Dream It’s Over, the hushed throng purrs and sways contentedly. In duet with Finn on guitar, Nicks trumps that triumph with Landslide and the partisans roar with thunderous approval. Nicks bows deeply, regally, which is to be expected. Nicks is rock royalty.
The proud Mac are not sleepwalking through this set with perfunctory treatments of these hallowed chestnuts. They are delivering! However magnificent the proceedings are, there is a glitch, one you might not ever see in a lifetime of attending live arena performances. About a minute or two into Hold Me, Finn steps away from the mike and stops the band. He and an astonished Christine are out of synch and he simply can’t continue. They talk it over diplomatically, reboot the song and all is well again.
The band leaves the stage to the exuberant towering Fleetwood who, emerging from behind his drum kit, strolls front and center to indulge and shower the audience with thanks and praises before commencing on a thundering drum solo and duet with his percussionist who takes an animated solo turn on his congas.
The show peaks with You Make Loving Fun, an extended Gold Dust Woman and Go Your Own Way which raises the roof.
During the encore, Tom Petty’s Free Falling, a large overhead screen displays a chronological history of flattering portraits of The Heartbreaker, many with Campbell and several with Nicks. They lean on each other as they sing and play facing the screen, backs to the audience, honoring their fallen comrade. It is a touching tribute to a talented and humble and authentic troubadour.
Don’t Stop sends everyone home contented, sated with the feast of Fleetwood Mac’s very best choice cuts.