With the return of Christine McVie, band restores its “classic” lineup and plays their greatest hits to a sold-out Air Canada Centre.
* * * (three stars out of five)
If Fleetwood Mac wants to take a victory lap, Fleetwood Mac can take a victory lap.
Another victory lap, I guess. They’re all kinda victory laps if you’ve got a reputation and platinum-plated catalogue of the sort Fleetwood Mac has.
Still, the last time the band passed through Toronto for an Air Canada Centre date in April of 2013, it looked surprisingly vital and revved-up for a pack of greying boomers that one might have been tempted to write off as a nostalgia act. For a band with nothing really left to prove, the Mac behaved like it still had something to prove.
For its current On with the Show tour, Fleetwood Mac has managed to restore itself to the “classic” lineup responsible for such landmark albums as Rumours, Tusk and Tango in the Night with the unexpected return of long-absent member Christine McVie to the fold for the first time since she quit the group — in large part due to a deathly fear of all the flying involved with touring the world in a rock ’n’ roll band — in 1998. This, of course, is a perfect excuse to stuff the set list with all the McVie songs that have been absent from Fleetwood Mac performances during the past 16 years, which made Saturday night’s sold-out performance at the Air Canada Centre a rather more straightforward, greatest-hits-oriented affair than the quintet’s last appearance in this town.
Not that that’s a bad thing. If Fleetwood Mac still wants to go out every night and play Rumours top to bottom, more power to it. A few other albums might have surpassed that megalithic 1977 pop smash in sales over the years since Michael Jackson’s Thriller usurped it as the biggest record of all time 30 years ago, but none of them — not Dark Side of the Moon, not Back in Black, not even Thriller itself — is as relentlessly pillaged, track for track (with the exception of maybe “Oh Daddy,” which I kinda feel sorry for), every single day, by classic-rock radio. Nowadays, though, the band no longer has to bound through “Don’t Stop” while politely ignoring the fact that the woman who wrote it isn’t there, and “You Make Loving Fun” and “Songbird” can resume their rightful, triumphant places in the set list.
McVie’s surprise return is, unfortunately, the sole real surprise the On with the Show production has to offer, at least as it was presented on Saturday night. Her presence onstage might herald a “beautiful, profound and poetic new chapter in the Fleetwood Mac story,” as guitarist/vocalist Lindsey Buckingham put it at one point — indeed, rumour has it he and McVie are already at work on new material — but at the moment it basically appears to be an excuse to take a fond stroll down memory lane.
Which is fine. It’s a nice stroll. McVie ditties like “Say You Love Me,” “Everywhere” and “Little Lies” are now back in circulation alongside such crowd-pleasing Stevie Nicks-sung staples as “Gold Dust Woman,” “Rhiannon,” “Gypsy” and the agelessly lovely “Landslide,” so Saturday’s two-and-a-half-hour show was a more relentless Fleetwood Mac hit parade than we’ve witnessed in years. There wasn’t a lot of room left to stretch out or get weird while dutifully covering all those bases, however. Oddball favourite Tusk got a passing glance in the form of the title track and Buckingham’s fiery “I Know I’m Not Wrong,” while the ace guitarist presided over a nimble-fingered acoustic deconstruction of “Big Love” and a slightly less successful, kinda-draggy remodelling of “Never Going Back Again” to shake off the usual a little bit. A few more drawn-out jams in the form of the late-set sprawler “I’m So Afraid” would have been welcome nonetheless, since it was those moments — the moments when Fleetwood Mac dug into its material enthusiastically and tore it up like a band doing more than just going through the expected motions — that made the group’s last ACC appearance so memorable. This time around, you tended to get exactly what you thought you were gonna get.
It kept the room in good spirits, anyway. And the band, still early into a 68-date tour that will extend well into 2015, seemed genuinely thrilled to be back in action with McVie at the keyboards. Drummer Mick Fleetwood looked positively gleeful, in fact, when he emerged onstage after the encore in a glittery red top hat to proclaim “The Mac is back!” If Fleetwood Mac is happy, we’re happy. These old dogs might have a few new tricks left in ‘em yet.
Ben Rayner / Toronto Star / Sunday October 19, 2014