By Ed Masley / Arizona Republic
Friday, May 31, 2013
It’s been 35 years since Fleetwood Mac released the soft-rock masterpiece that even now remains their calling card, the 11-times-platinum “Rumours.” And with four-fifths of the classic “Rumours” lineup — Lindsey Buckingham, Mick Fleetwood, Stevie Nicks and John McVie – back together again, they weren’t shy about blowing the dust off a good portion of that album Thursday night at US Airways Center, setting the tone with a spirited “Second Hand News” and then following through with “The Chain” and the chart-topping “Dreams.”
If Buckingham’s electrifying presence on guitar and vocals made it hard to believe you were watching a man who’d aged 35 years since releasing those songs, Nicks’ vocal on “Dreams” made it clear that the passage of time had not affected everyone in Fleetwood Mac the same. And it’s not that her vocal was off. It’s just that she’d rewritten the entire melody to suit the lower range her voice has settled into in her 60s, which detracted from a number of essential hooks ingrained in every Fleetwood Mac fan’s head. “Rhiannon” also found her backing down from the challenging notes, although delivered with real urgency. But Nicks, who told the crowd “It means a lot to be here; I was born here,” had redeemed herself and then some by the time the night was through, with her charisma and her vocals, really shining on an understated “Landslide,” which may have taken on an even more reflective tone with age.
It wasn’t all nostalgia, either. After three shots of “Rumours,” they tested the waters with “Sad Angel,” a new rocker driven by Buckingham’s chugging guitar. And later in the set, they treated the fans to the newly recorded soft-rock gem “Without You,” a Buckingham-Nicks song that went missing in the ’70s only to resurface in 2010 on YouTube, of all places.
Buckingham set up a showcase of “Tusk” with a speech that began with “There is a rule of thumb — I guess you could call it an axiom — in the music business. If it works, run it into the ground and move on.” It’s with great pride that Buckingham looks back on “Tusk” as the artistic left-field triumph no one, least of all the label, wanted after “Rumours.” Now, of course, it’s revered as one of rock’s most enduring misunderstood classics. And the first two songs they played from “Tusk” — “Not That Funny” and “Tusk” — have certainly retained their offbeat charm, while the Nicks songs that followed, “Sisters of the Moon” and “Sara,” served as a haunting reminder that “Tusk” had more to offer than Buckingham pushing the envelope into artier waters.
Buckingham followed the tribute to “Tusk” with a solo acoustic rendition of 1987’s “Big Love,” which showcased his skills on acoustic guitar with urgent vocals driving home the chorus hook. That led to a breathtaking version of “Landslide” with just Buckingham and Nicks on stage, the former couple holding hands in one dramatic pause while Nicks made the most of the poignant potential in the line “I’m getting older, too.”
From there, they dove back into “Rumours” with the slowed-down country blues of “Never Going Back Again.”
Nicks set the tone for “Without You” with a charming trip down memory lane and followed through with “Gypsy,” an early ’80s hit from “Mirage” that featured one of Nicks’ strongest vocals of the night and some of Buckingham’s flashiest guitar work. They stayed on “Mirage” for the spirited roots-rock abandon of “Eyes of the World” before another of Nicks’ most compelling showcases, the “Rumours” highlight “Gold Dust Woman.”
Next, Buckingham managed to bring in one of Thursday’s most enthusiastic crowd responses for a song that was neither a single nor a track from “Rumours.” A rarely heard highlight of Fleetwood Mac’s self-titled album, their first with Buckingham and Nicks on board, “I’m So Afraid” brought nearly every audience member to his or her feet with a jaw-dropping blend of musicianship and showmanship. He tore it up convincingly enough to win the adulation he deserved for that performance.
Nicks’ solo hit “Stand Back” kept the audience happy but the concert may have peaked with the set-closing “Go Your Own Way,” a rousing “Rumours” highlight that featured Nicks in a little black top hat and Buckingham squeezing out another flashy solo.
The encore got off to an odd start when Mick Fleetwood interrupted “World Turning” with a lengthy solo and then followed with the worst momentum killer in the history of rock and roll, introducing the band. You could feel the energy that peaked with “Go Your Own Way” dissipating by the second. But they made it worth the wait with yet another “Rumours” highlight, “Don’t Stop” — as in thinking about tomorrow. There was probably something ironic in seeing them close that particular show singing “Yesterday’s gone,” but here’s the thing: The highlights of that concert, of which there were many, served as a rousing reminder that maybe sometimes it’s cool to stop thinking about tomorrow and give yesterday another try, especially if you can make it feel as relevant as this show’s most compelling moments.
Reach the reporter at firstname.lastname@example.org or 602-444-4495. Twitter.com/EdMasley