“Sweet, wonderful you.”
These three simple words produced the biggest cheer in Vancouver last night. Written and sung by Christine McVie, they heralded her return to the band after an 18-year absence, as a full-strength Fleetwood Mac reclaimed their throne as soft rock’s all-time greatest band in a packed-to-the-rafters Rogers Arena.
McVie’s “You Make Loving Fun” was part of an opening barrage of hits from “Rumours” – beginning with “The Chain” and including “Dreams” and “Second Hand News,” the sequence only interrupted by the equally excellent “Rhiannon.”
Not that the band were playing it safe with nothing but fan favourites. A quick trip into the “Tusk” album delivered the title track and Lindsey Buckingham’s quirky, punk-tinged “I Know I’m Not Wrong,” soon followed by a brace of lesser-known Stevie Nicks ballads, “Sister Moon” and “Seven Wonders.”
The songs, many of which were approaching 40, weren’t showing their age. Neither was the band. McVie and Buckingham both oozed style in perfectly-tailored leather jackets, while Nicks’ distinctly flowing fashion, while perhaps starting to resemble a 1970s Miss Havisham, still demonstrated that she knew how to dress and act like a proper rock star. The super-tight, unfussy rhythm section of John McVie and Mick Fleetwood were, for reasons best known to themselves, dressed as The Wurzels.
Not that anyone noticed. The excitement was happening at the front of the stage, where three massive musical talents were sharing, perhaps competing, for the spotlight.
Centre stage, in position at least, was the magnificent Stevie Nicks. Wisely avoiding repeating her “Thank you Toronto” gaff from her last visit to Vancouver, she remained the most theatrical member of the band, concluding every song with a sweep of her arms and a flamboyant bow. Her voice perhaps isn’t what it once was, but that doesn’t mean that her songs, highlighted by “Landslide,” “Gypsy” and a lengthy “Gold Dust Woman” have lost any of their melodic or lyrical potency. Soft rock with bite.
Voice. Guitar. Stage presence. Songs. The dictionary runs out of superlatives when describing the talent of Lindsey Buckingham. Delivering searing brilliance every time he stepped to the mic or demonstrated his unique guitar style, midway through the concert his bandmates left him alone on the stage armed only with an acoustic guitar. After an obtuse introduction, describing the song “Big Love” as “a meditation on the power and importance of change,” he dropped the jaws of an entire arena with a devastating display of guitar technique, repeating the trick five minutes later as Nicks joined him on stage to lend harmonies to “Never Going Back.”
But the night belonged to Fleetwood Mac’s prodigal daughter, Christine McVie. Although lacking Nicks’ flair for the dramatic and Buckingham’s immense musical dexterity, the simple fact that she’d taken her prolonged break from the stage made hearing impeccably sung, elegantly simple songs like “Say You Love Me,” “Little Lies” and the finale of “Songbird,” played on a grand piano as Buckingham added delicate guitar lines, moments to treasure.
After two and a quarter hours of high quality vintage rock (including masterful versions of “Go Your Own Way” and “Don’t Stop”) Nicks and the eternally weird Mick Fleetwood both took their turns at the mic to thank the crowd and laud the return of Christine McVie.
Whether this is really a new chapter in this wonderful band’s lengthy story is still unclear. Sometimes a reminder of greatness is more than enough.
Robert Collins / CTV Vancouver / Wednesday, November 19, 2014