Fleetwood Mac performs classic hits at Nashville’s Bridgestone Arena.
Photos by Jamie Hernandez
If Fleetwood Mac wanted to phone in last night’s show at the Bridgestone Arena, they totally could have. The crowd — predictably mostly middle-aged, mostly white — was the kind of crowd that would dance to anything. Before the band even took the stage, folks around us grooved to the anonymous instrumental house music, a sure sign that these people are ready to boogie to whatever is put in front of them. But Fleetwood Mac obviously has no interest in just getting through. This is a band that has persevered through decades of adversity; this is not a band who takes shortcuts.
From opening number “The Chain,” Stevie Nicks, Lindsey Buckingham, Mick Fleetwood, John McVie and, back after a 16-year absence, Christine McVie all flawlessly and seemingly effortlessly delivered the goods as though they were holding their proverbial middle fingers in the air and defying any onlooker to even contemplate uttering the phrase, “They still rock … for a bunch of old folks.”
But it wasn’t just a collection of well-performed hits, played as though they were trapped in an unforgiving casino circuit driven by fans who can’t let go of the past. As a full band, Fleetwood Mac is incredible, yes, but they’re also such iconic musicians in their own right, and the remarkable thing about Wednesday night’s performance was that everyone had his or her own moment to shine, with obvious respect and support from their bandmates.
With Christine McVie back, the set list had a liberal sprinkling of Mac’s more yacht-rock-friendly tunes — “Everywhere,” “You Make Loving Fun,” “Say You Love Me” — all with gentle, warm imagery of trees and sunsets glowing behind the band. McVie claimed to be nervous, but she performed like she had never been gone, her voice sounding as strong and capable as her bandmates’, who’ve all had over a decade-and-a-half to keep their talents sharp.
Buckingham had plenty of opportunities to show off his jaw-dropping shred skills on songs like “Second Hand News” and the stellar minutes-long guitar solo during “I’m So Afraid,” of course, but the moment that felt truly special was right before he played “Big Love” — standing on the stage alone, he got all VH1 Storytellers on us, offering a long and humble explanation of how this song was written during an unhealthy time in his life (he didn’t overtly say drugs, but he basically blamed drugs), and while it could be a hard tune to play today, he noted that the song has taken on a new form. A form in which he’s able to look back and appreciate how far he’s come as a human being, now capable of healthy relationships.
Another charming moment came immediately after, when Stevie joined Lindsey onstage to perform “Landslide.” She admitted that her future could’ve been a lot different if it weren’t for Fleetwood Mac, Lindsey and “Landslide,” the band’s first hit and a song she’s performed “3 million times.” She said because her and Lindsey had another more country-inclined music project, she could’ve just as easily ended up in Nashville, married with babies and living a life so unlike the one she has and loves now. She dedicated the song to Lindsey and a friend’s newborn baby, of whom she’s the “fairy godmother.” And yes, a few happy tears rolled down The Spin’s cheek.
(As for John McVie, well, he played bass. In the shadows. While wearing a hat. Maybe the band is still mad at him or something.)
After a brief traipse down each individual path, the band would come back together, performing all-hands-on-deck hits like “Tusk” and “Go Your Own Way” with a herculean effort. Then the encore came. And it was Mick’s turn to shine. After playing two-thirds of “World Turning,” the band stepped off the stage and hid in the shadows as Mick obviously delighted in finally being the center of attention. It started innocently enough: a drum solo from behind the unnecessarily (but understandably) massive drum kit that included a gong. But as the crowd started to groove, Mick got weird. He squeezed his eyes closed and started to grunt into his headset mic, popping his eyes open from time to time, as wide as possible, like one of those bug-eyed stress dolls. “Don’t be shy now,” he said before inviting the tens of thousands of fans to partake in his goofy call-and-response of hoots and hollers. The longer it went on, the delightfully weirder it got, like he was testing the crowd’s ability (and willingness) to make random, high-pitched howls.
The giant screen behind Fleetwood, which featured only close-up shots of his face, started to do cheesy video effects — the image of him shrinking down and shooting around the screen like a game of pong — and it felt like we suddenly stumbled upon a random guy’s 2 a.m. public-access show.
After one last song, “Silver Springs,” the band all took a bow and verbally gushed with gratefulness. Stevie, once again, giddily thanked Christine for rejoining the band and bringing back the “girl power,” and instead of leaving it on that wonderful note, Mick popped onto the stage, thanked the fans, and popped his collapsible red top hat against his crotch and waved goodbye. Stay weird, dude.
The Spin / Nashville Scene / Thursday, March 19, 2015