And then there were ﬁve. Again.
FLEETWOOD MAC – THE FORUM, LOS ANGELES
FRIDAY, 10 APRIL 2015
It might be that for Fleetwood Mac there’s no other option: they have to start their show with a brace of their biggest hits because hits are all they have, and because hits are alI their generation-spanning fanbase will accept. And that expectation and appreciation are, in part at least, what are keeping these multi-millionaire 60- and 70-somethings trucking along on a year-long world arena tour (another one), even as decades-old “issues” refuse to go quietly into the night.
The name of this new jaunt defiently tells it like it is: this is Fleetwood Mac’s On With The Show tour. They hit the stage running in Los Angeles. They open with The Chain, its signature bass solo ground out with cool aplomb by John McVie. Flat-capped and rocksteady as ever, the 69-year-old is clearly very much back In the saddle after his 2013 cancer diagnosis.
Also back-in-Mac: his former wife, Christine McVie. After 17 years out of the fold – fear of ﬂying and, well boredom of rocking caused her to exit, stage right, for retirement in the Kent countryside – the singer/keyboard player rejoined the band 18 months ago. Song two tonight is one of the 71-year-old’s signature classics from the era-deﬁning Rumours album. You Make Loving Fun is defiantly funky, sprightly and blushingly giddy four decades on from its composition. Vocally. Christine sounds fantastic — aII the more remarkable considering that this is the 77th show of the tour.
Whether the subject matter still narks John is a moot point: Christine wrote it for her new fella after she and the bassist had split —her new fella being Fleetwood Mac’s lighting director Curry Grant. Badtimes for John, goodtimes tor Rumours, the 40 million-selling 1977 album whose grooves contained a whole soap opera of hits, splits and lovers’ tiffs.
As if to prove the point, up next is another Rumours hit. Dreams. It was Stevie Nicks’s magnificent kiss-off to her soon-to-be-ex, guitarist Lindsey Buckingham. Still sounding sublimely hippy in its intent, the airy anthem is immediately followed by Buckingham’s bite-back, Second Hand News. The sentiment comes over all the more urgently tonight, propelled as it is by the thunderous drums of Mick Fleetwood. The Mac’s towering founder might finally numerically speaking be older than he is tall (he’s 67 and 6’6″), but he still leads from the back with arm flaking vigour.
In every sense, Fleetwood Mac have come home. This is the fourth of ﬁve (non consecutive) nights at The Forum. Prior to this tour, the band had played this 17,000-capacity arena on a previous 12 occasions over the past 40 years. A vintage performance photograph of a glittery Nicks, in her shawl-twirling, spell-casting heyday hangs on a corridor wall in the venue.
LA is where, on New Year’s Day 1975, the remaining members of Fleetwood Mac (the British blues band iteration) joined forces with a hotshot Californian boyfriend/girlfriend team. Buckingham/Nicks and Fleetwood/McVie/McVie became a songwriting and album powerhouse, Even an infamous flurry of bed-hopping and an avalanche of cocaine couldn’t derail their progress.
Tonight, the songs in in tight 23-strong setlist – whether taken from the retooled line-up’s self-titled debut (1975), Rumours, follow-up Tusk (1979) or 1987 comeback Tango In The Night – are both peerless and unquestionably deserving of that overused adjective: timeless, Just ask Florence + The Machine and Mumford & Sons, both of whom have covered The Chain, Or yon can ask Haim. The three LA sisters channel the Mac’s breezy melodies and harmonies and bow before Nicks.
“The Haim kids, their parents spoon-fed them Fleetwood Mac all the time when they were in their cribs,” Nicks 67, says post-show. “I’ve had several conversations with their parents about it. Thy played Fleetwood Mac all the time, all the records. Those little girls were being inundated,” she coos with typical feeling. “It was becoming a part of them, and they didn’t even know It.”
Mick Fleetwood also has recent experience of a new generation paying homage. When Q meets him in a beachside Santa Monica hotel a couple of days after The Forum, the genial Cornishman, now based in Hawaii, recounts an encounter in a junk shop in Maui.
“David Hatﬁeld was in there,” he begins, and it takes a while for Q to realise that he means James Hatfield. “And boy, did he know his stuff! He said, ‘Fleetwood Mac are why Metallica are doing all this'” Fleetwood admits that even he was initially perplexed as to how the DNA of the world’s heaviest rock band might have spawned from mid-’70s California dreamin’.
I didn’t get if. But he was talking about the original Fleetwood Mac, the Peter Green era… And he leaned over and went ‘chunk chunk chunk…'” says Fleetwood, eyes boggling with delight. The song Hetfield was mimicking: The Green Manilishi (With The Two Prong Crown), a heavy blues track that went UK Top 10 for early Mac in 1970.
More recently, Fleetwood had a more logical reminder of his band’s deathless pop chops. He took his 13-year old twirl daughters to see One Direction at LA’s Ruse Bowl stadium. Much to everyone’s surprise, not least Fleetwood’s, he was treated as a hero back stage. AIl “the boys” wanted to meet him, as did the boyband’s songwriting team.
‘One-by-one they all came in and said, ‘Oh my God, we’ve just plagiarised three Fleetwood Mac songs in the past week!” They said to my girls, ‘we got so far into your dad’s drumming parts that we thought, ” Oh, we can’t do that, we won’t be able to get away with that…””
It has sparked an unlikely friendship with Harry Styles, who Fleetwood says has come to three of the band’s shows recently. “He writes to me from weird places, and has met Stevie, So, yeah,” he says, “a funny little relationship.”
Back at The Forum the 1D generation, their parents and their grandparents are still whooping It up delightedly as the feel-good Fleetwood Mac show breezily crests the two-hour mark. Nicks’s old witchy belter Rhiannon has solicited a huge roar. The performance of her ode-to-coke, Gold Dust Woman, has wigged out, with a mantric, intense outro. And true to form, the never-ending Nicks-Buckingham love/hate relationship is there to see in the pair’s traditional, and never-less-than eyebrow-raising, rendering of Landslide.
But in the end. tonight is about the return of Christine McVie. The set roars towards a close with the solid-gold optimisation of Don’t Stop- written as a post-split thumbs-up to John and finishes with her still-spine-tingling piano ballad Songbird.
Speaking to Q later, Christine will underline her pleasure at being able to perform the song onstage again – not least because for the last few months she’s been unable to play it, a wrist injury having hampered her playing. But reinstated as the final encore, Songbird underlines a key fact: the rebooted Fleetwood Mac look, sound and feel as vibrant as ever.
“It’s great having Christine up there to fill in that middle ground between Stevie and me,” Buckingham, 65, tells Q, and the ever-astute guitarist isn’t just talking about the gap in the three singers’ harmonies. “That’s what’s happening up their onstage on a lot of levels – musically, personality-wise and everything else. It seems quite complete.”
With the core five together again at last, big Mac are back.
You Make Loving Fun
Second Hand News
I Know I’m Not Wrong
Sisters Of The Moon
Say You Love Me
Never Going Back Again
Over My Head
Gold Dust Woman
I’m So Afraid
Go Your Own Way
Q MAGAZINE (July 2015)