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Live Review: Fleetwood Mac Revisit History and Try to Move On at Chicago’s United Center (10/6)
Neil Finn and Mike Campbell work hard to replace the magic of Lindsey Buckingham
BY MICHAEL ROFFMANON OCTOBER 08, 2018, 9:37AM
Fleetwood Mac with Mike Campbell and Neil Finn, photo by Randee St Nicholas
Fleetwood Mac with Mike Campbell and Neil Finn, photo by Randee St Nicholas
Return of the Mac? Earlier this year, longtime singer, guitarist, and principal songwriter Lindsey Buckingham was fired from Fleetwood Mac — or rather “let go,” if we want to be cordial. “Words like ‘fired’ are ugly references as far as I’m concerned,” drummer Mick Fleetwood told Rolling Stone of the departure. “Not to hedge around, but we arrived at the impasse of hitting a brick wall.”
In the same interview, singer, songwriter, and tambourine maestro Stevie Nicks cleared things up, saying: “We were supposed to go into rehearsal in June and he wanted to put it off until November . That’s a long time. I just did 70 shows [on a solo tour]. As soon as I finish one thing, I dive back into another. Why would we stop? We don’t want to stop playing music. We don’t have anything else to do. This is what we do.”
And so, the official story is that Buckingham wanted to chill, they wanted to go, but then you hear Buckingham’s side of the story: “I think what you would say is that there were factions within the band that had lost their perspective. The point is that they’d lost their perspective. What that did was to harm – and this is the only thing I’m really sad about, the rest of it becomes an opportunity – it harmed the 43-year legacy that we had worked so hard to build, and that legacy was really about rising above difficulties in order to fulfill one’s higher truth and one’s higher destiny.”
In other words, nothing has changed over the last 40 years with these folks.
It Takes Two: Well, that’s not exactly true. Some things have changed, particularly the addition of Crowded House frontman Neil Finn and former Heartbreakers guitarist Mike Campbell, who both get the rewarding journey of trying to make everyone forget about Buckingham. Not surprisingly, the rest of the band turned a cold shoulder on their old friend, partner, and lover, leaning curiously heavy on their salad days, as if to say, “Look, this band’s always been more than Lindsey,” which, look, they’re not wrong, but it also seems a tad convenient.
But convenience has been king in this situation for the band, as Fleetwood cheekily told Billboard: “It’s ironic that we have a 50-year package coming out with all the old blues stuff with Peter Green, all the incarnations of Fleetwood Mac, which was not of course planned. But that’s what we’re feeling, especially myself and [bassist] John [McVie], having been in Fleetwood Mac for 55 years. So it’s exciting, totally challenging in the whole creative part of it, and we’re really loving it.” It’s a nice coincidence that works wonders for the outfit right now.
Still, the addition of Finn and Campbell only stresses the impossibility of replacing Buckingham, seeing how it took two musicians to swap out one. Granted, Finn gets the job done (especially on the harmonies for hits like “The Chain” or “Go Your Own Way”), and you even get to hear him duet his band’s biggest hit (“Don’t Dream It’s Over”) with Nicks, but it’s impossible to buy any of the band’s theatricality, which has always been one of their on-stage trademarks. Even when they were phoning it in, you at least knew there was a history there.
Perhaps that’s why Campbell is the easiest new face to consider. Given his ties with the band, the legendary Heartbreaker actually makes sense, and there’s at least some narrative to be felt — even outside of the Mac. After all, here’s a guy who’s still reeling from the tragic passing of his brother-in-arms Tom Petty, and so, this gig actually winds up being the perfect opportunity for him to grieve the loss. Seeing him up there, bouncing around and adding a curveball to Buckingham’s signature riffs and scales was admittedly quite an enigmatic experience.
Though, when it came time to actually pay homage to Petty, the band more or less fumbled. Instead of covering “Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around” or “Insider” or “I Will Run To You” or any of the multiple Petty-Campbell-Nicks options out there, they stuck to the predictably simple sing-a-long of “Free Fallin'”. Sure, it was “nice” to hear Nicks take the reins on the legendary FM hit, but c’mon, this was a chance to dig deep and do something really special. Instead, it all felt so lazy, and it didn’t help that Getty-stamped photos were flashing in the background throughout the cover.
screen shot 2018 10 07 at 12 27 29 pm Live Review: Fleetwood Mac Revisit History and Try to Move On at Chicagos United Center (10/6)
The True Mac Daddy: Nicks sounds straight off the vinyl. Fleetwood can bang a drum like he’s in his thirties. John McVie is still John McVie. Hell, we’ll even give a round of applause to Finn for giving the second-best Buckingham impersonation after Bill Hader. But, the true Mac Daddy of the night was Christine McVie. The band’s oft-forgotten vocalist and keyboardist has only been back with the gang for a little over four years, after retiring from the stage in 1998, and she proves on this tour why her loss is paramount.
Not only does she lead the group’s more accentuated hits — ahem, “Everywhere” and “Little Lies” — but she also oozes with character, opting to go off-script in ways that felt incredibly natural and jamming out like the biggest fan in the room. She also hardly took a break like, say, Nicks, who would vanish from time to time. (That’s no dig on Nicks; this writer would have passed out 15 minutes into the show.) No, McVie’s a trooper from beginning to end, and blame it on Buckingham’s absence, but her presence is far more defined on this go-around.
So much so that the entire set ends with an unlikely duet between McVie and Nicks on “All Over Again”, a deep cut off of 1995’s Time, the first album at the time not to feature Nicks since 1974’s Heroes Are Hard to Find. It’s a bold move by the band, given that it’s hardly an epic closer or anything, but it’s a smart move. Seeing the two of them setting aside their differences and sharing the spotlight felt like a proper moment to end on. If anything, it feels emblematic of a time when women have never been more united.
It was beautiful.
That One Song: It’s a tossup between “Little Lies” and “Rhiannon”. The former is one of those bops you tend to forget, only to hear again and say, “Oh my god, I love this ****ing song,” while the latter is a legend in its own right. When Nicks began singing the mesmerizing ballad, which dates all the way back to 1975, she had the support of every single soul in the audience. Those who were leaving to get beer or hit the john quickly ran back to their seats. Those who were waiting to hear it all night bled their lungs out. Those who have loved this band forever and ever were in tears. It’s the song and always will be the song, and as long as Nicks is around, it’ll always be the song of the Mac.
Lindsey, Can You Ever Forgive Them?
lindsey gif Live Review: Fleetwood Mac Revisit History and Try to Move On at Chicagos United Center (10/6)
Second Hand News (Neil Finn on lead vocals)
Say You Love Me
Black Magic Woman (Stevie Nicks on lead vocals)
I Got You (Split Enz cover)
Tell Me All the Things You Do (Neil Finn lead vocals)
World Turning (with drum interlude by Mick Fleetwood)
Hypnotized (Neil Finn lead vocals)
Oh Well (Mike Campbell on lead vocals)
Don’t Dream It’s Over (Crowded House cover) (Neil Finn & Stevie Nicks on lead vocals)
Isn’t It Midnight
You Make Loving Fun
Gold Dust Woman
Go Your Own Way
Free Fallin’ (Tom Petty cover) (Stevie Nicks on lead vocals)
All Over Again
Thanks for sharing Lola, that was an interesting review. This reviewer seemed to know more about FM and the players, than most.
I want to add a few thoughts to my review. What happened to Gypsy? They played it on Ellen but it didn't make it into the set list. Stevie talked way less than the last tour-the talking seemed more evenly divided and Mick came out to introduce people/songs. I didn't know he was going to come out to center stage with his drum during his solo. The young guy next to me was like that's cool! When Neil and Stevie were singing I Got You it felt like they were trying to recreate the Silver Springs intensity. Taku Hirano was fun to watch--he looked really into it. Chris seemed to play more too, I don't think her hand was bothering her like the last tour (remember she had a brace for a while). She seemed to play more here or more vigorously than she did with BuckVie. Someone already mentioned no top for Stevie. And the water bottle thing was funny...
Live Review and Photo Gallery: Fleetwood Mac at United Center
United Center, Chicago
Saturday, October 6, 2018
Every instance when the current members of Fleetwood Mac chanted “chains keep us together” at the United Center on only the second night of a North American tour that stretches well into 2019, it seemed to be much more than a chance for the audience to sing-a-long to what’s become its standard opener “The Chain,” but rather an internal commitment that no matter the degree of drama transpires, at least some version of the band will always exist. For those who missed the latest soap opera episode of what could easily be dubbed “As Fleetwood Mac’s World Turns,” the core four of drummer Mick Fleetwood, bassist John McVie, vocalist/keyboardist Christine McVie and singer Stevie Nicks are continuing for the second time without Lindsey Buckingham, who’s been let go this round (and touring solo through the Athenaeum Theatre on October 17), but once again replaced by two players.
Chances are even those who weren’t keeping up with the saga could instantly recognize the fresh faces, Neil Finn (of Crowded House and Split Enz fame) and Mike Campbell (from Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers), who dived head first into the Fleetwood Mac fold, despite Buckingham’s integral contributions being noticeably absent and missed. Then again, this is an act that’s been through numerous editions and incarnations (including most recently Christine McVie’s temporary retirement with merely Nicks and Buckingham out front in the 2000s), so it really wasn’t that far of a stretch to accept, at least as far as the venue’s sold out status was concerned.
Shaking up the line-up was accompanied by the unexpected inclusion of several rarities in between the main classics for well over two hours, which between all the players collectively and individually, meant there were tons of choices. “Little Lies,” “Dreams,” “Say You Love Me,” “Everywhere” and “Rhiannon” were just a handful of the Stevie and Christine notables that came across as sweet as ever, bathed in a wall of harmonies that may have sounded a bit different than the original records given the adjusted configuration, but were nonetheless textbook Fleetwood Mac.
The new recruits also had many chances to make the acquaintance of longtime fans in this format, with Finn excelling on Split Enz’s “I Got You,” Crowded House’s “Don’t Dream It’s Over” in an enchanting duet with Nicks, plus the set list shockers “Tell Me All The Things You Do” and “Hypnotized” representing Danny Kirwan and Bob Welch’s contributions long before Fleetwood Mac made a commercial splash. Campbell gave listeners from the days of Peter Green and “Black Magic Woman” (resurrected earlier by Nicks) another bluesy surprise with the snarling “Oh Well,” while a tribute to his pal and former employer Tom Petty via “Free Fallin’” with Stevie singing earned a hefty appraisal.
Even with the front line’s massive appeal on their own, Fleetwood Mac mega-hits such as “Landslide,” “You Make Loving Fun,” “Go Your Own Way” and “Don’t Stop” called to mind exactly how valuable the group’s extensive songbook has become well beyond its main run throughout 1970s and ‘80s, alongside the forgotten ‘90s cut “All Over Again” popping up unexpectedly as the debut duet between the ladies to neatly tie up the night’s theme. Now in operation for more than 50 years, it’s probably safe to say that no matter what goes down between personnel or who winds up making the final roster during any given season, these Rock and Roll Hall of Famers will likely “never break the chain” as they “don’t stop thinking about tomorrow.”
-Review and photos by Andy Argyrakis
The photos can be found here:
Fleetwood Mac sparkled as they united their fans at the end of a terrible Saturday
Posted By Jamie Ludwig on 10.09.18 at 02:30 PM
Maybe after seeing liar, bully, and partisan hack Brett Kavanaugh bulldozed onto the Supreme Court by the GOP on Saturday afternoon, you couldn't imagine doing anything as celebratory as attending an arena concert. But if that devastating development for American democracy—and especially for American women—had you wanting to escape into familiar songs brimming with female energy and tinged with mysticism, you could've done a lot worse than the Fleetwood Mac show at the United Center.
The second date on a tour called "An Evening with Fleetwood Mac," it was also the group's third gig since parting ways with longtime guitarist and singer Lindsey Buckingham in April. That move put more of the spotlight on singer Stevie Nicks and singer-keyboardist Christine McVie, along with the two men the band recruited to fill Buckingham's shoes: guitarist-vocalist Neil Finn (Split Enz, Crowded House) and lead guitarist Mike Campbell (Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers).
Those four were of course joined by the rhythm section for which the band is named—exuberant drummer Mick Fleetwood and comparatively reserved bassist John McVie—as well as three auxiliary musicians and two backup singers. They came onstage to a roar from the crowd and opened with "The Chain," kicking off a set that spanned the band's five-decade history, mixing familiar hits with songs written before Nicks and Buckingham joined in 1975—and throwing in some surprise covers. Presumably because Christine McVie rejoined Fleetwood Mac in 2014 (she'd left in 1998 in search of a quieter life), the set notably emphasized tunes she's written or cowritten for the band, including "Everywhere," "Say You Love Me," and "Little Lies."
To me, arenas are the least optimal type of concert venue: they're usually crowded and expensive, and the distance between artist and fan can make performances feel impersonal, especially compared to a club or house show. In fact, before Saturday I hadn't been to an arena concert in more than a decade. But despite my misgivings (and my general discomfort around huge numbers of people), the night turned out to be pretty fun. Fleetwood Mac are pros, with the expertise to connect with fans all the way up in the nosebleeds—any listener who's willing can come along with them on their musical journey.
"Willing" seems to be the right word here, or at least it did from where I was sitting. For each fan singing along with every song, there was another who got riled up for the big singles and then sat back down for everything else. Those apparently more casual fans didn't even perk up visibly when Fleetwood, John McVie, Campbell, and the other instrumentalists launched into hard-hitting, extended solos or grooves—this brings up questions about who goes to arena concerts and why, but that's a conversation probably best left to another time.
When the crowd erupted in song for the hits, it did my heart good—a chorus of thousands of women's voices joining in on "Dreams" or "Landslide" turned out to be a decent salve for the painful, misogynist national discourse that's surrounded Kavanaugh for weeks. And whether the crowd recognized it or not, Fleetwood Mac had clearly put a lot of care and feeling into building their set list—they took the trouble to introduce songs associated with former members Peter Green (who wrote "Black Magic Woman") and Daniel David Kirwan (who took a famous guitar solo on "Oh Well").
If you didn't know that Campbell and Finn were new additions, you'd never have guessed. Finn blended his voice perfectly into harmonies with Nicks and Christine McVie, carried off Buckingham's vocal parts effortlessly, and of course sounded right at home when the group covered the 1979 Split Enz single "I Got You" and the 1986 Crowded House hit "Don't Dream It's Over." The chemistry among the musicians seemed natural and familiar, as if they'd been working together for years rather than just a couple of months of rehearsals.
Fleetwood Mac famously played Bill Clinton's first inauguration in 1993, and in the run-up to the 2016 presidential election, Nicks went on the record as a Hillary Clinton supporter. In an interview with the New York Times she predicted that Clinton would triumph, and quipped that she'd like to put together a group to perform "Landslide" in celebration. In light of that—and in light of the fact that Nicks and Christine McVie have persevered in the face of sexism and misogyny throughout their decades in the music business—I was curious if anyone onstage would comment on the events of the day. But throughout Fleetwood Mac's two-and-a-half-hour set, all the onstage talk focused on the band's legacy and music. That music continues to bring together longtime fans and new generations of listeners, which is an achievement in and of itself. Though the crowd skewed older, there were plenty of teenagers too, many decked out in feathered hairstyles, scarves, and bell-bottoms worthy of Nicks and Christine McVie.
Finally, at the end of their three-song encore—"Free Falling" (the Tom Petty song), "Don't Stop," and the Nicks-McVie duet "All Over Again"—Fleetwood left the crowd with some parting wisdom. "Take care of yourselves, and more importantly, in this very strange world we seem to be living in, remember to be kind to one another," he said. "And remember we love you so very much."
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