What a difference a McVie makes.
Christine McVie’s long-awaited return to Fleetwood Mac, following a 16-year absence, paid huge dividends during the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame act’s sold-out concert on Tuesday at the SAP Center in San Jose.
It allowed the band to fully recall its commercial and artistic peak of the ’70s, when the voices of McVie, Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham combined to make Fleetwood Mac one of the world’s biggest bands.
Sure, Nicks has typically received the lioness’ share of attention, with Buckingham hogging much of what was left over. Yet, anyone who doubts the importance of McVie’s musical contributions, both on vocals and keyboards, probably didn’t catch the band’s three previous road shows — all of which were solid, but not nearly as fulfilling as what Bay Area fans witnessed with the current On with the Show Tour.
Whether you’re a longtime fan or a newcomer to the fold, this is definitely the right time to see Fleetwood Mac. Locals will have another shot when the Mac — Nicks, Buckingham, Christine McVie, drummer Mick Fleetwood and bassist John McVie — perform Dec. 3 at Oracle Arena in Oakland. Show time is 8 p.m. and tickets are $49.50-$199.50, http://www.ticketmaster.com.
The tour — the band’s first with Christine McVie since 1997’s The Dance trek — is all about the hits. Fans get to hear most of the band’s best-known songs, minus the pre-Nicks/Buckingham material of the late ’60s and early ’70s, during a mostly well-paced set that stretches over 2 ½ hours.
The reunion show kicked off in appropriate fashion, with a triumphant version of “The Chain,” the only song credited to all five band members on 1977’s 40-million-plus selling “Rumours.” The group sounded fantastic, like it had just stepped out of some time capsule sealed around 1979, as it glided and grooved through some two-dozen pop-rock songs.
The three vocalists took turns in the spotlight, with McVie — the de facto guest of honor at this party — going first and crooning through a soothing “You Make Loving Fun.” Her first line was met with applause from the crowd, obviously thrilled to once again hear her voice.
“I’d just like to say a special thanks to Fleetwood Mac … for letting me come back and do this,” McVie said to the audience early in the evening. “It’s unreal.”
She bubbled with joy, like a woman who’d just found her lost winning lottery ticket, throughout the evening. She acted like it was a privilege to be able to once again sing such songs as “Everywhere” and “Say You Love Me” — and it certainly was a privilege to hear her sing them.
The happiest person in the building, however, was former San Jose State University student Stevie Nicks, who repeatedly informed the approximately 14,000 fans in attendance that she was delighted to be back in her old stamping grounds. It was great to hear her talk so warmly — and specifically — about San Jose, a city that is routinely referred to as San Francisco during concerts by performers who really should know better.
“This is for all of you in San Jose,” Nicks said during the introduction to the gorgeous ballad “Landslide.” “Because, you know, this is where the dream began.”
Nicks benefits greatly from Christine McVie’s presence, which allows her to shoulder less of a load overall and thus pour herself more fully into her lead vocals. She was brilliant on “Rhiannon” and even better on “Sisters of the Moon.” Nicks definitely went for broke on “Seven Wonders,” a tune from 1987’s “Tango in the Night” that gained new life after being used in TV’s “American Horror Story: Coven.”
“Thank you ‘American Horror Story,'” said Nicks, who also appeared — as herself — in the series.
The concert wasn’t without some problems. The last third of the show dragged on a bit too long, as the band extended some songs well past their worth and seemed to lose sight of the finish line. Nicks’ “Gold Dust Women” should’ve delivered a concise crescendo, but instead went on and on like a lesser String Cheese Incident cut. Mick Fleetwood’s drum solo during “World Turning” was a showstopper — but in all the wrong ways. Buckingham was his usual showboat self on guitar, but he has the talent to get away with it.
In all, however, it was a triumphant return for Fleetwood Mac — and its soaring “Songbird” Christine McVie.
Jim Harrington / Bay Area News Group / Tuesday, November 25, 2014