Fleetwood Mac

May 28, 2013
Honda Center
Anaheim, CA

Review by Shawn Perry
Photos by Kimberly Annette

Few bands have as colorful history as Fleetwood Mac. Let’s start with how they transformed themselves from basically an underground British blues band into a song-oriented FM rock super group with millions of records sold. You could spend days and weeks filling in the sordid details on the Mac’s high turnover in personnel, but most have come to accept the lineup featuring Stevie Nicks, Lindsay Buckingham and Christine McVie out front — and founding members drummer Mick Fleetwood and bassist John McVie manning the engine room — as the most definitive. Four-fifths of that famous configuration rolled through Southern California on their 34-city U.S. tour with sold-out shows at the Hollywood Bowl and Honda Center.

Before even announcing their 2013 tour, the 35 anniversary celebration of the band’s seminal Rumours album was underway. So, it wasn’t too much of a surprise that tonight’s set list featured several songs from the album, including the first three — “Second Hand News,” “The Chain” and “Dreams.” Then again, they were just as comprehensive in covering the 1975 self-titled album that first featured Buckingham and Nicks as well as Tusk, the quirky follow-up to Rumours, which Buckingham described as an attempt to defy the rule of thumb of something working and running it into the ground. Think about it.

Indeed, the focus was very much on Buckingham and Nicks who were offered a spot with Fleetwood Mac after Mick Fleetwood heard their demo at Sound City studios (check out Dave Grohl’s film Sound City for the full story). The band, of course, went on to superstardom and rock n’ roll notoriety. Since then, the pair — no longer romantically involved, their public lives hung out to dry — have become major stars on their own. But you’d never know it by the constant hand-holding and coddling. They were as snug as bugs the whole evening.

Without Christine McVie, of course, there were certain songs they couldn’t perform, like “Songbird” and “Over My Head,” but Nicks, resplendent in her signature layered black chiffon skirt, ably filled in the parts on “World Turning” and “Don’t Stop.” Once you get past the material and the auxiliary players — Brett Tuggle on keyboards, rhythm guitar, backing vocals; Neale Heywood on rhythm guitar and backing vocals,: Sharon Celani on backing vocals; and Lori Nicks on backing vocals — the core of Fleetwood Mac lies within the interplay amongst Buckingham, McVie and Fleetwood. You couldn’t help but go wild as Buckingham spanked a pickless lead down through the dusty trails of “I’m So Afraid.”

They performed a solo song by Stevie Nicks, “Stand Back,” but steered clear of anything before 1975. If you want to hear "The Green Manalishi (With the Two Prong Crown)," you’ll have to go see Judas Priest; if you're waiting for “Black Magic Woman,” Santana has you covered. Even “Oh Well” gets more love from Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers than Fleetwood Mac these days. Mostly, what tonight was about was Fleetwood Mac from 1975 onward. They even pulled out a couple new ones from their recently released four-song EP. As it is, both “Sad Angel” and “Without You” whittle down the Mac's   melodic, bouncy side of their multi-faceted palette. By their very raw and homegrown nature, they could just as easily be Buckingham-Nicks songs.

While Buckingham and Nicks did indeed hold court for most of the night, the rhythm section of Fleetwood and McVie are unquestionably an essential dimension to the end-product. McVie’s bass turn on “Gold Dust Woman” alone is enough to warrant the praise of the man’s rock steady sense of low end shindiggery. And Fleetwood, much like great drummers who play for the song, throws in just the right touches and accents. His primal solo out of “World Turning” was a feat of exuberance and dexterity, his lanky 65-year-old frame as agile and fearless behind the kit as drummers a third his age.

As the second encore wound down with “Say Goodbye,” Nicks became sentimental, calling the audience “dreamcatchers,” because they are the ones who have kept the dream alive for the members of Fleetwood Mac after 35 years. There were no special guests or surprises tonight, and unless Christine McVie was waiting in the wings (as likely as Peter Green visiting Disneyland), no one was really looking for that kind of excitement. Watching Fleetwood Mac was a realization of how powerful a collective they are, despite those stray, wild ambitions outside the box. How much longer they can sustain their storied career, perhaps even add a little more to the legacy, depends on how much longer they can pack mid-size arenas. By the looks of it, they have a ways to go.

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