When I paid over the odds to see Fleetwood Mac at the soulless 02 in Autumn 2013, it was in the knowledge that this was a chance to see the legendary band one last time, yet less than two years later I find myself doing the same. The answer to this conundrum is that after a 17 year absence, keyboardist and singer Christine McVie is back in the band, reuniting the quintet that recorded one of the all-time classic albums in ‘Rumours’ and is regarded as the definitive Mac whatever those of us devotees of the original Peter Green blues line up might think.
The impact of her return was demonstrated by multiple sold out shows, and as if to make a statement, the opening four songs were all from Rumours. They opened with ‘The Chain’, showing off the way the voices of Lindsey Buckingham, Stevie Nicks and Christine entwined, before that trademark ‘Grand Prix’ bass line from the low key John McVie and a solo by Lindsey improvised from the original, then a song each showing each of their distinctive characteristics as singers and songwriters – Christine with ‘You Make Loving Fun’, Stevie ‘Dreams’ and Lindsey ‘Secondhand News’.
To the first of the night’s video backdrops, Stevie sang ‘Rhiannon’ though I was waiting in vain for Lindsey’s solo which enlivened the songs in the seventies, while a big cheer went up as Christine sang ‘Everywhere’.
Looking ridiculously fresh for a near 72 year old it was a reminder that her more straightforward pop style with effortlessly cool vocals complemented the darker and more idiosyncratic talents of the American duo, to make the Mac such a more interesting proposition.
Indeed the big difference in this show compared to the one I saw in 2013 was the way this was far more a complete Greatest Hits set and both Lindsey and Stevie dropped some of their more experimental moments to cede some of the limelight, even though Lindsey led on the relative obscurity ‘I Know I’m Not Wrong’, from ‘Tusk’, followed by a rearranged version of the title track complete with a backdrop of the famous marching band video and Stevie delivering ‘Sisters Of The Moon’ before Christine returned to the spotlight with ‘Say You Love Me’, one of many songs that the set somehow seemed incomplete without.
The only downsides to the set were that the elaborate choreography meant gaps between songs that slowed the momentum, while the gig did sag slightly in the middle with too many slow numbers. After an over long monologue full of typical Californian psychobabble Lindsey played ‘Big Love’ solo on guitar, emitting some bizarre animal like roars as it reached its climax and after duetting with Stevie on ‘Landslide’, then a totally slowed down and rearranged ‘Never Going Back Again’.
After an impromptu Happy Birthday to him, they then brought Mick Fleetwood front of house on a smaller drum kit for stripped back versions of ‘Over My Head’ and ‘Gypsy’, the latter preceded by an interminable reminiscence from Stevie of her hippy days in San Francisco.
‘Little Lies’ again showed Christine’s way with a pop tune and I enjoyed it more than when I used to find ‘Tango In The Night’ very bland in the eighties, with a crisp closing solo from Lindsey, before a couple of longer and more adventurous arrangements, Stevie’s’ ‘Gold Dust Woman’ turning into an extended jam where it was great to be able to pick out some bluesy Hammond playing from Christine.
Then after being frustratingly restrained for much of the set, Lindsey was finally let off the leash for ‘I’m So Afraid’, playing a jagged, extended solo ever faster in his unusual open fingered style, all the while exaggeratedly stomping across the stage as if auditioning for Monty Python’s Ministry of Silly Walks.
’Go Your Own Way’ then got significant portions of the upper tier up and dancing for the first time, while the way Lindsey engaged with the front rows as he delivered his solos gave them justification for paying three figure sums plus for the privilege.
The encore also began promisingly with the country blues of ‘World Turning’ only to turn into a vehicle for a lengthy Mick drum solo. At least we were spared the ridiculous body pads of a few tours ago, but it was accompanied by a bizarre running commentary from him in which he mixed the persona of an army PT instructor with some Freddie Mercury-like call and response.
Recompense came in the form of ‘Don’t Stop’ which, despite its over use by baby boomer politicians on both sides of the pond, is a perfect feel good tune with a rolling rhythm and there was a joyous atmosphere both on stage and in the O2’s cavernous bowels. Two years ago, assuming this was the final encore, I had beaten a hasty retreat only to find when I got home I had missed a further encore.
Thousands did the same again this time, either through ignorance, needing to catch trains or because they had only come for the hits, but those of us who stayed were rewarded by a signature song from each of the leading ladies, Stevie with ‘Silver Springs’, and fittingly the returning Christine having the last word with her ballad ‘Songbird’. Well, not quite the last word as Mick bade farewell with a lengthy speech in the fruity tones of a Shakespearean actor.
Some 40 years after the classic line up came together, and with a new generation of acts citing them as an influence, the Mac seem to have realised that time is short and they need to lay down their legacy. This beautifully crafted 2 ½ hour show did exactly that.
Review and Photos by Andy Nathan
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