By Neil McCormick
27 May 2015
The soap opera of the band member’s personal lives has always lent a certain depth and texture to Fleetwood Mac, says Neil McCormick
The Chain made for a suitably dramatic opening, showing off the restored Fleetwood Mac to full effect with that fantastic bass, thunderous drums, blood quickening guitar solo and gorgeous wall of harmonies insisting the chain cannot be broken. Going straight into You Make Loving Fun drove the point home, showcasing Christine McVie’s smooth vocal and funky keyboards. “I think we can safely say our girl is back” trilled Stevie Nicks.
This tour marks the full reunion of the classic line-up, with the return of Christine McVie after 16 years. The band have become almost the definition of a heritage act in her absence, regularly touring sets of their greatest hits to nostalgic audiences, so you can’t really say she was missed. But there is no doubt she restores some balance, both in musical and pop cultural terms.
Musically, she takes some of the weight off virtuoso guitarist Lindsey Buckingham, her smooth, lush pop songs softening his sharper arty edges. Flowing gems as potent as Everywhere, Little Lies and Songbird were restored to their rightful place in the centre of a Fleetwood set and for that alone audiences have reason to be grateful.
But there is a sense too that the dysfunctional family is back together, healing old wounds with the balm of time and music, a message that, in itself, speaks volumes to lifelong fans
Fleetwood Mac make much of their history of “ups and downs” as Buckingham puts it. Now that Christine is back playing again with ex-husband bassist John McVie there are three former couples on stage, if you take into account that drummer Mick Fleetwood romanced singer Nicks behind the back of Buckingham.“What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger,” Buckingham insisted, and seemed intent on proving it with a playful yet dramatically full blooded duet with his ex on Never Going Back Again.
The soap opera has always lent a certain depth and texture to Fleetwood Mac but, frankly, a little less chatter and a little more playing would be my only suggestion. There were speeches even after the encores. Yet it feels churlish to complain. Precious few bands have contained the range of vocal, stylistic and songwriting talent of the Mac, and even the inevitable inclusion of a new song didn’t start a queue for the toilets.
With that taut, explosive rhythm section, Buckingham’s imaginative flair, Nicks’ wildcard charisma and Christine McVie’s singalong soulfulness restored to the heart of the matter, there is really no way this band could be anything less than extraordinary. A lusty mass singalong of Don’t Stop spoke volumes about how their audience felt about the return of the Mac.