Mick Fleetwood: For the love of blues | The Sportsman’s Review

By Nathan Weinbender
Sept 22nd, 2016

Legendary drummer, Fleetwood Mac cofounder brings his blues combo to the Fox

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Mick Fleetwood has perhaps one of the most prominent surnames in rock, having lent it to the enduring, platinum-selling pop outfit Fleetwood Mac. But the towering British drummer now has another namesake, the rootsy quartet known as the Mick Fleetwood Blues Band, which stops by the Fox on Wednesday.

“This tour is short and very busy, and we don’t often do it,” Fleetwood said from his tour bus, en route to California. “It’s spotty. It’s not a consistent thing.”

But it’s not like Fleetwood has a lot of free time. Fleetwood Mac recently completed two world tours (one of which brought them to Spokane in June 2013), and four members of the band’s most successful lineup have been working on new original material. Now that he’s back on the road with his other band, Fleetwood admits that he’s something of a “glutton for punishment.”

“It’s just for the love of playing, really,” Fleetwood said. “We’re not out promoting anything. We’re just getting up and doing what we do. I like to play, and this is a great little band.”

The Mick Fleetwood Blues Band formed 12 years ago and frequently serves as in-house entertainment at Fleetwood’s Maui restaurant, Fleetwood on Front St. Unlike Fleetwood Mac, which has had some major personnel shakeups over the years, this band’s lineup has remained the same: Fleetwood on drums, bassist Lenny Castellanos, keyboard player Mark Johnstone and guitarist Rick Vito, who briefly replaced singer-guitarist Lindsay Buckingham during a hiatus from Fleetwood Mac in the late ’80s.

Despite being widely associated with melodic pop, Fleetwood Mac actually started out as a blues band in 1967, when Fleetwood founded the group with bassist John McVie and guitarists Peter Green and Jeremy Spencer.

“Blues is my boot camp. It’s where I really came from,” Fleetwood said. “This is a band that is fairly similar to the early days of Fleetwood Mac. I just keep it swinging.”

After enduring several stylistic permutations and lineup changes (Fleetwood and John McVie are the only original members still present), Fleetwood Mac eventually settled into soft rock in the late ’70s, with Buckingham, singer Stevie Nicks and keyboardist Christine McVie rounding out the group. The band became a radio juggernaut, and its bestselling 1977 album “Rumours” is now considered one of the most significant musical statements of its decade.

Fleetwood Mac still sells out arenas with its most famous lineup – Christine McVie recently rejoined the band after a 16-year absence – but when he’s on tour with his blues band, Fleetwood says he can relax a little bit.

“With Fleetwood Mac, you’ve got 150 people running around, and lighting directors and carpenters,” Fleetwood said. “And here we are on two buses, doing our own thing and keeping it lean. You don’t expect certain things. For me, it’s like going back to when I was 20 years old.

“I have more freedom musically. You have to hit the mark when you’re out doing the Fleetwood Mac stuff because there’s so much at stake. But it’s still the same thing. The music is freer, but the attitude of playing is the same. I can’t play if I’m not into it. I play from my gut. … So if I don’t get there, I don’t feel good about what I’m doing. For me, it’s pretty simple.”

Fleetwood says the band’s set lists primarily feature traditional blues staples and some of Vito’s original songs, but audiences can also expect to hear some early cuts from the bluesier iteration of Fleetwood Mac.

“We’re a blues band. We’re not playing ‘Rhiannon,’ ” Fleetwood said. “We touch on a lot of the original Fleetwood Mac music – ‘Black Magic Woman’ and ‘Oh Well’ and ‘Need Your Love So Bad.’ … That’s who we are.”

And as for new music from Fleetwood Mac, it’s supposedly coming soon, along with yet another world tour next year.

“John and Christine and Lindsay, the four of us, are going to be finishing up some great music we’ve been working at,” Fleetwood said. “The music is really vibrant and really cool, and it’s Fleetwood Mac, basically.”

The only drawback: Stevie Nicks, who’s currently on a solo tour with the Pretenders, likely won’t be involved.

“Unlike anyone else in the band, she really does have a complete career on her own, you know?” Fleetwood said. “She doesn’t want to spend time in the studio, and she’s doing her own thing. You wish for something else, but that’s not fair after 30, 40 years of doing what we do. Everyone’s got to do what they feel they need at this point.

“But never say never. Down the road, we’re in a good position that we could add her songs and integrate her into some of the music we’ve been working on for four years. So that’s the state of Fleetwood Mac Nation.”