REVIEW: Moments of strength, flatness for Fleetwood Mac

With Christine McVie back in Fleetwood Mac after more than 16 years, singer and guitarist Lindsey Buckingham told a near-capacity BMO Harris Bradley Center Thursday “we begin a profound, poetic and I think a prolific new chapter.”

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Can’t say Thursday’s show was always profound, and its highly doubtful Mac–which dropped its self-titled album, the first with gamechanging additions Buckingham and singer Stevie Nicks, four decades ago this year–is going to be all that prolific going forward.

But it did seem Buckingham and most of the band believed the words he was saying. And that conviction, coupled with enduring talent and classic rock songs, was enough to make Thursday’s two-and-a-half-hour show, the 54th on its current tour, a nice little footnote for Milwaukee fans.

McVie, however, seemed to live by very different words she uttered: “I’m not as strong as I used to be,” as sung during “Say You Love Me.” Her appearance was welcome for sentimental reasons, evident by the warm response when she took lead vocals for the first time in the night, for “You Make Loving Fun.” But there were moments of vocal flatness–most obvious at concert’s end for her signature “Songbird,” alone on piano with Buckingham on electric guitar–and McVie lacked the charisma of her now more-seasoned singing bandmates. Even drummer Mick Fleetwood–perched behind his decked-out kit with chimes and gong–had more pizaaz, albeit perhaps too much when he disguised a lengthy and ultimately none too impressive drum solo during “World Turning” with hollow, hype-fanning pseudo scat-speak.

There were other moments of self-indulgence. “Go Your Own Way,” one of several enduring singles from the band’s mega-blockbuster “Rumours,” ends on the album with a sudden, anti-climactic fade, but Thursday’s drawn-out jam session finale wasn’t much of an improvement. And Buckingham, like Fleetwood, was a ham, yelping like a cowboy between some songs, cackling like a pirate at the start of a still-rollicking “Tusk,” and stomping about like a toddler throwing a tantrum once the song was over. His voice, while emotionally charged, was also a touch raw compared to the heavenly harmonies of Mac’s ’70s heyday. But his guitar playing, from the bluesy build on concert-opener “The Chain” to the bittersweet beauty of his acoustic guitar on “Landslide,” was consistently exquisite.

Nicks acknowledged before “Landslide”–performed with just Buckingham by her side–that the pair had performed the song hundreds of times. But in dedicating it to her late father–it was his favorite song, she said–she still conveyed the same quiet majesty she brought to the first recording forty years ago.

Her alluring voice and mystical charisma led the band through anthemic yet intimate soft rock charmers like “Dreams,” “Rhiannon” and “Gold Dust Woman,” a setlist of hits so great, the band can be excused if that “prolific new chapter” never comes. After all, Fleetwood Mac already created a story for the ages.

THE TAKEAWAYS

  • The best part of the concert was a more stripped-down five song set that included a few fond recollections about the origins of “Big Love” and “Gypsy.” If Mac is really seeking a profound new chapter, it should consider a storytellers-oriented tour in smaller venues.
  • One reason the harmonies sounded so great Thursday was because there were up to five backing singers (two of them also supporting instrumentalists). Fleetwood let those musicians take a bow–but not once did he acknowledge a second drummer who played hidden behind speaker stacks. For most of the night the drummer was helping Fleetwood fill out the sound, but Fleetwood himself did handle his drum solo actually solo.
  • Noted banter: “On a personal note, let me quickly say how grateful I am and how fantastic it is to be standing here on this stage with these amazing musicians who are my musical family.” – Christine McVie

THE SETLIST

1. “The Chain”

2. “You Make Loving Fun”

3. “Dreams”

4. “Second Hand News”

5. “Rhiannon”

6. “Everywhere”

7. “I Know I’m Not Wrong”

8. “Tusk”

9. “Sisters of the Moon”

10. “Say You Love Me”

11. “Seven Wonders”

12. “Big Love” (Lindsey Buckingham solo)

13. “Landslide” (Stevie Nicks and Buckingham solo)

14. “Never Going Back Again”

15. “Over My Head”

16. “Gypsy”

17. “Little Lies”

18. “Gold Dust Woman”

19. “I’m So Afraid”

20. “Go Your Own Way”

Encore

21. “World Turning”

22. “Don’t Stop”

23. “Silver Springs”

Second Encore

24. “Songbird” (Christine McVie and Buckingham solo

Piet Levy / Milwaukee Journal Sentinel / Thursday, February 12, 2015

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Did you buy a premium ticket for Fleetwood Mac at the BMO Harris Bradley Center? Music writer Piet Levy is working on a feature story on VIP concert experiences. If you wish to be featured, email him at plevy@journalsentinel.com by Feb. 18.

Piet Levy talks about concerts to see, local music and more on “TAP’d In” with Jordan Lee, 8 a.m. Thursdays on WYMS-FM (88.9).

Author: Stevie Nicks Info

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