Fleetwood Mac at O2 arena, SE10 | The Times

Ed Potton
Published at 12:01AM, May 29 2015
The Times

Four out of Five stars

After leaving one of the most dysfunctional bands in rock, Christine McVie is back, and Fleetwood Mac’s classic line-up are performing together for the first time in 16 years. “Our songbird has indeed returned,” beamed Mick Fleetwood, and the giant drummer wasn’t the only one feeling elated during a show full of potent renditions of their Seventies standards: The ChainGo Your Own Way, Rhiannon.

John and Stevie, O2 Arena
John McVie and Stevie Nicks from Fleetwood Mac Marilyn Kingwill

Elation or desolation — they don’t really do anything in between.

Their woes, singer-guitarist Lindsey Buckingham noted wryly, have been “quite well documented”. From past ones — the implosion of Christine’s relationship with bassist John McVie and Buckingham’s with singer Stevie Nicks — to present ones — John is in remission from cancer. When Nicks dedicated a song to Adele (“You’re gonna be me in 40 years”), you could imagine Adele appreciating the sentiment but not envying everything Nicks has been through.

Some recent reunion shows in America are reported to have been lacklustre; here, though, energy levels soared. The return of Christine McVie restores a vocal triumvirate that only the Beatles could match. She was demure behind her keyboard, but her songs received the loudest cheers, especially the poppier Eighties pair of Everywhere and Little Lies.

If she still has a richer voice and a more transcendent way with a hook, Nicks is the more commanding. As she spun across the stage in her sparkly shawl during a groove-laden Gold Dust Woman, you weren’t sure whether Nicks was about to sing or perform a human sacrifice.

Should it come to the latter we know whom she’d choose. Nicks’s relationship with Buckingham remains fraught and there was a lack of eye contact. Is she irked by his rock-god inclinations, his orgasmic roars after guitar solos? Either way, he is an extraordinary musician who attacked his instrument with demonic zeal on Tusk. Later, relations seemed to thaw: Nicks even wiped his brow. Was it rehearsed? If so, it’s another example of how they have used their differences for creative ends.

Deciding the set list must have been a feat of diplomacy, which perhaps explains why they followed a rousing Don’t Stop with a sedate Silver Springs. When Nicks and the jester-like Fleetwood made rambling speeches, it felt like the third Lord of the Rings film: a couple of endings too many. But you couldn’t argue with the finale: Songbird, sung at the piano by the resurgent Christine McVie, her voice pure and ageless.

Genting Arena, Birmingham, June 8 & 9; Manchester Arena, June 12; Isle of Wight Festival, June 14 and touring until July 8