Despite a few bumps, the veteran Anglo-American band played with purpose and passion Friday at SDSU
Fleetwood Mac showed, and sometimes defied, its age during the legendary band’s generous Friday concert at San Diego State University’s Viejas Arena.
As a result, “Don’t Stop,” the group’s 1977 hit and second encore, took on new poignancy with its now-weathered refrain: Yesterday’s gone. So did 1975’s rustic ballad, “Landslide,” whose wistful chorus – Children get older / I’m getting older, too – assumes a different resonance 38 years later.
Then again, for a band that was formed in London in 1967 and whose enduring core members first joined forces in Los Angeles in 1974, Fleetwood Mac’s longevity and renewed energy is worthy of celebration and reflection. Its 23-song SDSU show offered ample opportunity for both, with the band’s members (all now past 60) and their multigenerational audience forming an unusually large, boisterous mutual admiration society.
The evening began with an impressive salvo of “Second Hand News,” “The Chain” and “Dreams,” all from the band’s epic 1977 Rumours, one of rock’s most popular albums, then and now. The concert, a notable improvement over the band’s mostly rote 2009 San Diego Sports Arena show, concluded with four encore selections. They included the bristling “World Turning,” the jaunty “Don’t Stop” (the only song by former singer and keyboardist Christine McVie, who quit the band in 1998), the country-tinged “Silver Springs” and the gentle acoustic ballad “Say Goodbye.”
In between came a mix of classics (“Rhiannon,” “Go Your Own Way”) and deep album cuts (“Eyes of the World”), plus one new song (“Sad Angel,” excellent), and a recently unearthed older one (the Cat Stevens-flavored ballad “Without You,” so-so). Guitarist-singer Lindsey Buckingham and singer Stevie Nicks also did some songs from their solo catalogs, a move that impeded the concert’s flow nearly as much as the four consecutive numbers from the band’s more experimental 1979 album, Tusk.
The absence of more new material did not appear to bother many in the enthusiastic SDSU audience. Nor did Buckingham seem concerned, as he noted in a U-T San Diego interview Thursday.
“Well, sure, of course you want to keep doing new material, if you can,” he said in the interview. “But there is also, I would say, a point you get to where you do come to terms with the fac tha you have this great body of work. And there’s nothing wrong with going out and playing it. In a way, it can be a little freeing, because if you don’t feel you have to remake yourself every time (you tour), you can go put and deal with the (vintage) material in a slightly fresh way, every time.
“And that can be just as effective, once you come to terms with that, it kind of releases you and there’s a point where you really need to come to that (realization). Because you have to understand that, probably, the audience is not really there to hear the new as much as to hear a reaffirmation of the body of work.”
The underlying sentiments to parts of that body of work sometimes got jumbled during Friday’s show. But that’s par for the course with this famously dysfunctional band, whose best songs from the mid-1970s were born from the crumbling love affairs between Nicks and Buckingham and between McVie and her-then husband, bassist John McVie.
Given this context, it kind of made sense that Nicks’ declaration early Friday night — “This party starts now!” — came just before “Dreams,” her wrenching 1977 song about the then-imploding relationship between her and Buckingham. The swirls and twirls that were once Nicks’ trademarks remain, but came only intermittently. During “Go Your Own Way” she playfully chased Buckingham, but not too fast, across part of the stage.
Nicks, 65, and Buckingham, 63, briefly held hands and embraced on stage several times. They also engaged in some between-songs banter that promoted Nicks to liken them to George Burns and Gracie Allen.
“Can’t we be someone younger?” Buckingham playfully responded.
Older and wiser, the two are keenly aware that their romance, while now decades in the past, still carries a special allure for fans. This holds especially true for those who might use Rumours as an emotional barometer of their own lives.
Bassist McVie and drummer Mick Fleetwood, the band’s two remaining charter members still on board, were rock-solid throughout. The sound was enhanced by several instrumentalists and backing singers, who gave added dimension to the music. Kudos, too, to the band’s audio engineers, who achieved impressive warmth and a clear, crisp sound balance in the usually echo-heavy arena. (The secret, as in most sprawling venues of this size, is simple: The lower the volume, the less muddled the sound.)
Buckingham played guitar with finesse and ferocity. Refusing to rest on his laurels, he often sang with such passion that it almost seemed as if his career prospects depended on it. Nicks sounded more constricted, her trademark tremolo less tremulous, her lower vocal range somewhat diminished. But she is still a commanding presence and the sheer force of her personality usually made up for her technical shortcomings. In a few instances, her struggle to hit the notes of her youth lent added depth to the songs. In others, she simply fell (and sounded) a bit flat.
After the fourth and final encore, “Say Goodbye,” Nicks thanked the audience for making her and the band’s dreams come true over the past four decades. She also urged fans to listen to the band’s vintage songs in the future as if they were hearing them for the very first time.
It was sage advice at a nostalgia-fueled concert that could serve as a preview of the band’s valediction (Buckingham’s reference to “new chapters in the Fleetwood Mac” notwithstanding). No fewer than 15 of the 23 selections came from the first three albums he and Nicks made with the band: 1975’s Fleetwood Mac; 1977’s Rumours; and 1979’s Tusk.
But the high-tech stage production was very much of the moment. And Fleetwood Mac’s best songs, like the group itself, both define and transcend their time. Don’t stop, indeed.
George Varga / U-T San Diego / Saturday, July 6, 2013