When does classic rock begin and end? If the answer is based on what radio listeners hear on many FM stations, it could lie anywhere from the Beatles to Nirvana. Regardless, Fleetwood Mac embody the term perfectly, and with core member Christine McVie back in the fold for the On With The Show tour, which stopped in Saskatoon last night (November 12), that notion is only further cemented.
Fleetwood Mac’s history breaks into two eras: the original blues iteration and the later pop version featuring Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham. While McVie’s tenure straddles both sides, she is a main part of the second, more successful lineup that created the flawless 1977 album Rumours. The Saskatoon performance began with a series of songs off that record, each emphasizing the strengths of the different musicians.
“The Chain” allowed drummer Mick Fleetwood and bassist John McVie to lock in and get the crowd on their feet. John’s lines filled the arena before giving way to Buckingham’s first of several clear and soaring guitar solos. You could practically see the Boomer generation growing up before your eyes in a whirlwind of swirling bellbottoms and broken hearts.
Then Christine took the spotlight for “You Make Loving Fun” and the audience learned why Fleetwood declared that the band’s “songbird has returned.” As she crooned, “I never did believe in miracles/ But I’ve a feeling it’s time to try,” it was hard not to tear up at the fear of never knowing a love so strong. The same held true for the mid-set rendition of 1975’s “Say You Love Me.” Still, her sweetness didn’t spill into saccharine, instead countering fellow vocalists Nicks’ cocksureness and Buckingham’s hyperactivity. Indeed, the two songs after “Loving” were the Nicks-penned “Dreams” and the tightly wound Buckingham tune “Second Hand News.”
Nicks, in particular, was a marvel. Draped in layers of flowing black and banging a tambourine when not belting songs like “Rhiannon” or “Gypsy,” she exuded the aura of an icon. Watching her spin around on the stage in a trail of fringe felt on par with Roger Daltrey’s microphone swing for legendary moves.
An interesting segment came when the band played material off Tusk, the sprawling followup to Rumours. Buckingham’s face peered down like an Orwellian pop auteur in the multimedia light display. Eventually, Buckingham performed some stripped-down numbers. The 1980s single “Big Love” was passionate and rousing. He introduced the song, saying it once represented alienation and is now a meditation on change.
For all the fuss made over the relationships that have informed Fleetwood Mac’s best work, this variance in interpretation is key to their mass appeal. The lyrics are applicable any personal dramas fans might experience. Planning a career move? Go your own way. Calling your insurance agent because you crashed your car on the first day of winter? Thunder only happens when it’s raining.
Less effective than “Big Love,” though, was the duet with Nicks for “Never Going Back Again.” The punchy production of the Rumours track proved impossible to replicate live. Towards the end, the band went back to their psychedelic roots with extended jams.
Ultimately, the music was so familiar that the show seemed nostalgic even for those not old enough to have taped Farrah Fawcett posters to the inside of their lockers. The group closed with “Go Your Own Way,” and played an encore that included “Don’t Stop.”
Now that’s classic rock.
Jacob Morgan / Exclaim / Thursday, November 13, 2014