Marlene Stemme, Concert Reporter
“And that’s a magical thing.” Stevie Nicks closed Fleetwood Mac’s Cleveland concert last Saturday, June 15, with this sentiment as she talked about the reciprocity between they the artists writing and performing songs and we the audience listening to the songs and giving our experience back to them. Stevie said that the thought came to her a few weeks into this tour that we listen to their songs each time as though we were hearing them for the first time. Indeed, we do. This is not difficult because each show is unique. Or, as my friend Jayne says, “To the untrained eye, it may look like the same show….” Some Fleetwood Mac shows are intense, some are emotional and personal, some are rife with wit and quirky humor, some are big-city show-stoppers.
Cleveland was the happy show. The band seemed happy, the audience seemed happy, the people around me were happy, and I was happy. Stevie smiled, grinned, and generally seemed bemused. Lindsey raced around the stage, jumping and emoting. Granted, they do these things at every show, but something about the happy aspect seemed more real in Cleveland, more true to the mood. “Don’t Stop,” which I tend to regard as an audience-pleaser, not an artistic masterpiece, was a delight. At that show, I really believed that I would look to tomorrow for hope and potential.
“Sara,” which follows intensely and beautifully from “Sisters of the Moon” in a mystical song sequencing triumph that I don’t entirely understand, hits all the notes of melancholy, yet Stevie has turned it into an inkling of hopefulness. When she changes the lyric “And now it’s gone, it doesn’t matter anymore,” to “It’s never gone, it always matters what for,” on the last pass, she sings it like she absolutely wishes for us to understand that sentiment above all else. I think it’s a teaching moment for her.
Every time, and I do mean every single time, I have seen “Stand Back,” I am always surprised and delighted. My short-term memory is apparently not very responsive, because “Stand Back” is in every Fleetwood Mac concert I’ve ever seen. It was a party in Cleveland, a crowd rouser for a crowd that was already gung-ho with enthusiasm.
On the darker and more intense side, “Gold Dust Woman” remains the phenomenon that it has become on this tour. I’m amazed that a human being can go that deeply into an experience and character, manifesting despair and darkness, and come out of it to thank the audience with a smile and a wave. There was a moment in Stevie’s performance in Cleveland, after the first chanted “running in the shadows” section, when Stevie does a sort of tranced-out dance of despair and comes back to the microphone. Looking at her expression, I thought, “That’s not Stevie right now.” She allowed herself to so embody the character that she creates in the story that her nature seemed changed. That’s a great performance.
The end of “Silver Springs” was also compelling, and, I thought a little more unhinged than I’ve seen at other times. I’ve noticed that whenever she lets the “never get away” emotions fly as Lindsey eggs her on, her voice, when she comes back to the microphone for the last line of the song, is fuller and richer. She really worked her voice over each syllable and sustained those notes. My overly-analytical mind thought, “I really love the way she sang the word ‘green.’” This is why it’s never the same show twice, and why my normal-world friends roll their eyes and tell me they hope I had fun at the show.
Lindsey is always *right there* with his songs, never holding himself back. He seemed to have an extra special dose of energy on Saturday. I always pay attention during “Big Love,” but I must admit that I sometimes start thinking of other things during the song: I’m thirsty, I wonder where I parked my car, that sort of thing. Not so in Cleveland. What in some shows seems like frenzy was in this show pure energy, like running exuberantly toward the edge of a cliff and somehow landing relatively safely on the other side.
I have become a fan of the live version of “Sad Angel,” the song from Fleetwood Mac’s new little album of four songs. Lindsey starts the song so earnestly and with such energy that I can’t help but be swept along. Mick’s drum tempo and John’s bass are so quintessentially Fleetwood Mac, and the lyrics so mythologically Lindsey and Stevie, that the song sounds like it should always have been part of their repertoire. Lindsey introduces the song with a lot of enthusiasm for their creative future as a band, and the audience in Cleveland seemed to accept the song wholeheartedly. Win/win.
Never one to miss an opportunity to discuss creative stagnation in the music industry, Lindsey introduced the four songs in the Tusk Movement of the concert by saying that they tried to “subvert the axiom” of the music industry’s repetition-until-death formula when they created Tusk. I love that he launched from that opening speech into “Not That Funny,” a great tune to follow a discussion of axioms and subversion.
Let’s discuss “Say Goodbye” then and now. When Lindsey and Stevie sang “Say Goodbye” on the Say You Will tour, I thought Lindsey and Stevie made an honest effort, and the (general) audience sometimes paid attention, and sometimes took a drink or restroom break. On this tour, ten years later, I think “Say Goodbye” is a solidifying closing song. Lindsey led the way vocally, and Stevie sang both high and low harmony parts to him. Seeing them sing and respond to each other was so compelling that I don’t mind the sustained neck pain that I endured the next day from whipping my attention back and forth between the two. Watching between Stevie and Lindsey when they are really on is often like watching the serve and volley of a professional tennis match.
These vocals and the visuals are why they were once before and are now again such a dynamic musical duo. It’s a great and final ending to a show that changes the landscape of Fleetwood Mac almost to a duo within a duo—Stevie and Lindsey in their mutual musical worlds backed up and led by Mick and John. This might not be the classic Fleetwood Mac that became supremely famous together, but it is a kind of reinvention that makes them creative, awesome, and, let’s face it, fun, going into the future. For that, Fleetwood Mac, Cleveland, Ohio gets my vote for the unabashedly happy show of my own personal and hard-won 2013 concert tour.
At the end, Lindsey told the audience that we were angels (more than “you’re a great audience,” in my enthusiastic opinion), so I can’t hesitate to say that divine fun was had by everyone present that night. I have no doubt that this spirit will continue for the rest of the tour in all kinds of happy, sad, intense, funny, and memorable musical ways.