They were "70s rock's longest-running soap.
But can they still kick it?

Rock on gold dust woman, take your silver spoon and dig your grave." Stevie Nicks gives a knowing smile as she sings the haunting closing song from Fleetwood Mac's 30 million-selling 1977 album Rumours, With a hole the size of a 10p piece in her septum, 55-year-old Nicks is au fait with the perils of cocaine addiction. So too is her bandmate and former lover, drummer Mick Fleetwood, Shortly before going onstage in Berlin. Fleetwood confesses, "The druggy alcohol years cost me hundreds of thousands of dollars"- although not the 8 million once reported. 'that's ridiculous!" he hoots, "I'd have been dead!"

Now, at age 61. both Fleetwood and the band to which he and bassist John McVie gave their names in London in the mid-'60s are in rude health. The current Fleetwood Mac album Say You Will is said to be their best since 1979's Tusk. and the first studio set in 16 years to feature singer and guitarist Lindsey Buckingham, who quit in 1987 yelling 'Fuck the lot of you!" Now drug-free and reconciled, Fleetwood Mac are 73 dates into a world tour set to conclude with a series of outdoor shows in the US in summer 2004. "We're having fun," says Nicks.

All they're missing is McVie's ex-wife Christine, who starred in the band between 1970 and 1998, but who now prefers a quiet life in Kent. "Chris has moved on." says Fleetwood. And the band moves on without her, as it has without various alumni since its inception in 1967.

TRULY, FLEETWOOD MAC's is a sobering tale. Before Buckingham and Nicks joined the group in '74, two of its former guitarists- Peter Green and Danny Kirwan - succumbed to mental illness. A third. Jeremy Spencer. fled to a cult. And by the time Fleetwood Mac set to work on Rumours amid a blizzard of cocaine. Buckingham and Nicks were at each other's throats following the end of their six-year relationship, and the McVies were separating. Emotions were laid bare in songs that came to define the rich sound of'70s adult rock. The current Fleetwood Mac show begins with two of those songs: The Chain (once employed as the BBC's Formula 1 theme), fused from two different pieces, shifting from a woozy rhythm to a frenzied coda. and then Dreams, the simplest of pop songs, smooth as velvet, Both have Nicks, erstwhile queen of rock beauties, mourning romance. Buckingham is married now. with two young children, but throughout the night he and Nicks act out past dramas: flirting, play-fighting, and singing the most intimate of duets on the new song Say Goodbye, which he prefaces by saying, "There is little gain without loss: little redemption without forgiveness" "You could truly have heard a pin drop during that song," Nicks says after the show. With tickets priced at 60 Euros (over C40), perhaps a restrained audience is to be expected. But 42-year-old Ines Drubig is not complaining, even though she has driven the 120 miles from Dresden alone. "1 don't have the new album," she admits. "But Fleetwood Mac are my favourite band, And," she purrs, "I love Lindsey Buckingham!" It is Buckingham who drives the band tonight, his guitar playing a revelation, He ends the spooked blues of I'm So Afraid on his knees, scratching at the instrument's strings then pummelling its body with both fists. Nicks's Landslide, however, demands restraint. She dedicates the song to the audience but later reveals, "1 wrote it for Lindsey - for him, about him. It's dear to both of us because it's about us. We're out there singing about our lives." While these little dramas are played out, John McVie remains impassive, even glum. But Fleetwood is super-animated, rolling his eyes and pulling faces like a village idiot. During the encore he performs a demented drumming display in tandem with an excitable percussionist, one of seven backing musicians. Buckingham jokingly blames this madness on the "residue" of Fleetwood's past drug abuse. Fortunately, while prowling the stage and banging a tribal drum, Fleetwood finds no use for the pair of golden balls dangling suggestively from his waistcoat. They finish with a seventh song from Rumours, Don't Stop, now synonymous with Bill Clinton's election victory, and one last new song, Goodbye Baby, another of Nicks's hymns to lost love. This one. at least, ends in hope.

MICK FLEETWOOD IS confident that this tour will not see the end of Fleetwood Mac. "We wanted to get back in the trenches," he says. "That's why it was important to make a new album: a statement as to what we're doing. Other bands like The Eagles do tours with no album. We wanted some creative value to it." And, having acted as the band's chief arbitrator and peacemaker for 36 years, he is well placed to spot potential rifts, "If there was any area where it would collapse, it would be between Stevie and Lindsey - that they weren't happy doing this for whatever reason. This has been a learning curve for them," Thirty minutes after the show's end, Buckingham and Nicks are seated on a sofa in
a backstage room lit by candles. She cross-legged, relaxed and smiling-describes the performance as "wonderful". He, with a clipped laugh, calls it "therapy". Christine McVie's absence has, Nicks claims, "made the whole dynamic of the show different", and brought her and Buckingham closer together. He agrees: "There's more "' psychic space. We can face off and really connect." They might as well be sitting on a psychiatrist's couch. "We're able to be warm and loving and friendly and fun," she says. "There's a sweetness to it. Lindsey and I are really enjoying it." She casts a sideways glance. "Aren't we?" "Yes," he reassures her. "We are."

Paul EIliot

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Last Updated - 15 February 2004

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