6 June 2015
When they spoke, they made little to no sense, but when they sang and played they came close to perfection, says Melissa Kite
‘I can’t tell you what a thrill it is to get this chance in life,’ said Christine McVie, as the opening jangle to ‘Everywhere’ rang out. Judging by their ecstatic reaction, the audience felt much the same way.
Look, I’ll be honest. I’m not going to give you a dispassionately critical review of Fleetwood Mac, together again in their classic line-up — Lindsey Buckingham, Stevie Nicks, Mick Fleetwood, John McVie and, for the first time in 16 years, Christine McVie. But then, who would give you that? A puritan arrived on a time machine from the 16th century? A shadow minister for work and pensions? Who could possibly be so joyless as to not enjoy the Mac being well and truly back?
From the minute the fab five wafted on stage and began thumping out ‘The Chain’ in glorious abandon, this was a show that was as near perfection as it is possible to calibrate. It wasn’t just good. It was so good I was jealous of myself for being there.
This was the 82nd gig of Fleetwood Mac’s On With the Show tour, and they delivered an impeccable showcasing of non-stop hits. For such diverse, eccentric talents to come together and gel at all is a miracle. To gel for so long, how does that work? But perhaps that’s the point. The band makes a wonderful sound in the way that only musicians who have been together a long time, gone through fire, and learnt to accommodate each other, can.
I was on my feet a few numbers in, unable to stay seated for the songs from Tango in the Night, the soundtrack of my youth. But no matter which was your own particular favourite era or album, there wasn’t a number in this show that wasn’t a crowd-pleaser. If you’d wanted a drink, or a trip to the loo, you would have been hard pressed. There just wasn’t a second you could allow yourself to miss.
Stevie Nicks, like an exquisite moth in her winged clothes, the mystic muse, ‘our poet’, as Fleetwood called her, was by turns raunchy and raucous, wounded and delicate. On ‘Rhiannon’ she was every inch the old witch of the song, on ‘Gypsy’ she was knowing, yet vulnerable.
Buckingham played unfeasible guitar solos, yelping and howling like a demented coyote in an acoustic version of ‘Big Love’ that was half rock’n’roll, half flamenco. Standing in a spotlight alone, screeching as his fingers plucked lightning fast arpeggios, the effect he produced was as if Jimi Hendrix had swallowed Joaquin Rodrigo. It was unutterably thrilling, and worked on a deep level, by which I mean that as well as making a fantastic noise, it did things to you that you weren’t exactly sure you wanted doing, as they might dislodge something awkward, emotionally speaking. He tried to explain the song before playing it, referring back to his personal struggles with the lifestyle the band led in their heyday.
‘Tango was a very difficult album to complete,’ he told the audience. ‘We were probably living that lifestyle out to its ultimate conclusion. If I look back on how I was then …this is about the power and importance of change.’ Even though he didn’t make total sense, I understood what he meant.
Effusive about McVie’s return, as they all were, he said: ‘We’ve seen our fair share of ups and downs but it’s made us what we are. What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. We’ve been able to grow and evolve but also to prevail. And in this karmic, circular moment, with the return of the beautiful Christine, we’ve begun a prolific, profound new chapter in the history of this band.’ I’m allowing it, I thought, as he rambled on, because the man is a genius.
In one of several meandering excursions of her own between songs, Nicks gave a Reith-style lecture on the subject of longevity, but I guess she has earned the right. They had honed their craft properly, she said, supporting Hendrix and other giants in big stadiums before they headlined themselves. They had only survived 40 years because they were ‘proper songwriters’. Then she launched into a ‘we may be old but we’re still down with the kids’ type tribute to Adele, who was in the audience. She dedicated ‘Landslide’ to her, and sang it like she was only a slip of a girl herself.
How can Nicks be 67? Is this possible, or has Wikipedia made a mistake? She looked incredible cavorting around the stage, shaking her long blonde hair, dancing with legs planted wide, frenziedly tipping herself upside down and gyrating like a shaman in a trance. Her voice was as strong as ever. ‘Back to the gypsy that I was,’ she sang, in that world-weary drawl, and you believed her. ‘We love you, Stevie!’ people shouted from the back seats.
She possibly didn’t need to come back to the mike at the end of the encore and start telling us the exact details of how Christine had rung up and told them she was coming back to the band, especially after McVie herself had more than adequately brought proceedings to a close with ‘Songbird’, seated alone at a grand piano, landing us in a sweet, serene place.
Still, I sat listening to Stevie chatting about life, and how it had ‘all worked out beautifully’, long after the rest of the band had gone off stage, and with no hope of another song coming, because, well, she was right, wasn’t she? It had all worked out beautifully.
This article first appeared in the print edition of The Spectator magazine, dated 6 June 2015