An Evening With Fleetwood Mac

Slow and insistent, the recognizable riff came from the speakers high above the floor of St. Paul’s Xcel Energy Center Sunday evening.

“How are they going to do this one without the marching band?” the Texas Gal asked me in a whisper.

“I don’t know,” I whispered back as Fleetwood Mac’s Lindsey Buckingham continued the riff on his guitar, joined soon enough by drummer Mick Fleetwood and bassist John McVie. And then “Tusk” burst forth in full voice from them and Stevie Nicks and the rest of the musicians onstage Sunday: a pair of back-up singers along with another guitarist and a keyboard player.

But even as that happened, I wondered how the second half of “Tusk” – from the 1979 album of the same name – would sound without the brass and percussion provided thirty-four years ago by the University of Southern California marching band. I needn’t have worried. At exactly the right moment, the horns and drums rolled out of the speakers, and on the big screen at the back of the stage, the image changed from kaleidoscopic abstract (if foreboding) art to footage of the USC band from a video shot back in 1979.

As the song came to a thundering climax and ending, those of us in the X (as it’s called in these parts) came to our feet roaring in approval. It wasn’t the first time we’d risen like that, and it wouldn’t be the last.

Seeing Fleetwood Mac was the Texas Gal’s idea. She’s a big fan of Stevie Nicks and thus, by association, a Fleetwood Mac fan, and one evening early this year, she poked her head into the Echoes In The Wind studios and told me we were going to go see Fleetwood Mac in April. I was fine with it. I’d never had the Mac on my list of must-see artists, but I knew (and liked) the group’s music well enough that it had showed up in this space numerous times.* So off we went Sunday, joining what appeared to be about 18,000 others in St. Paul for what turned out to be a very good show.

We stopped for dinner on our way, and the Texas Gal asked me over our enchiladas which songs I was most looking forward to hearing. “Gold Dust Woman” and “The Chain,” both from 1977’s Rumours, came immediately to mind, and an instant later, I thought of “Silver Springs,” the outtake from Rumours that was released as a B-side. And then I revised my list, putting “Landslide” from 1975’s Fleetwood Mac at the top of my list.

I heard all four, including an intimate version of “Landslide” midway through the show, with Nicks accompanied only by Buckingham’s acoustic guitar. “The Chain” showed up early, following the opening “Second Hand News” and preceding the group’s only No. 1 hit, “Dreams.” “Gold Dust Woman,” with Nicks drawing applause for the third or fourth time for her whirling dance during the instrumental, came near the end of the main part of the show. And just when I’d thought I’d have to go without it, “Silver Springs” showed up as an encore, earning a place on my list of great concert moments.

All together, the twenty-three songs offered Sunday night spanned more than forty years, with the earliest being “Without You,” a song Nicks said came from “1970 or 1971,” when she and Buckingham were working toward their 1973 album Buckingham Nicks, and the most recent being the new recording “Sad Angel,” which Buckingham said was one of several new tracks recently recorded.** (The set list also included “Stand Back,” Nicks’ solo hit from 1983.)

Fleetwood Mac’s catalog from the mid-1970s on is so well known, of course, that the opening notes of nearly every song brought a roar of approval from the crowd; the loudest roar, it seemed, came for Nicks’ iconic “Rhiannon” from Fleetwood Mac. And the roars didn’t subside until about two-and-a-half hours after they began, when the band members bid us goodnight and Mick Fleetwood told us, “Be kind to one another,” as the houselights came up.

There are a few videos from Sunday’s performance at YouTube, but none are very well done. So here’s “Landslide” from the 1997 release The Dance. This is pretty much how it sounded in St. Paul.

And here, courtesy of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, is Sunday’s set list:

Second Hand News
The Chain
Sad Angel
Not That Funny
Sisters of the Moon
Big Love
Never Going Back Again
Without You
Eyes of the World
Gold Dust Woman
I’m So Afraid
Stand Back
Go Your Own Way

World Turning
Don’t Stop
Silver Springs
Say Goodbye

*Many of those posts were, of course, from other versions of the band, as Fleetwood Mac has had several incarnations through the years: There was the blues band featuring Peter Green and Jeremy Spencer; the early 1970s band with Danny Kirwan, Bob Welch and Christine McVie; the mid-1970s band that saw Nicks and Buckingham join the McVies and Fleetwood for an extraordinary run of both popular and critical acclaim; the short-lived 1990 lineup when Buckingham was replaced by Rick Vito and Billy Burnette; and the current regrouping of John McVie, Fleetwood, Nicks and Buckingham that we saw Sunday evening. Christine McVie hasn’t worked with the group since sometime in the mid- to late 1990s, but I read online in the past few weeks that she’ll join the band onstage later this year for a couple of shows in London.

**Shortly after I posted this, I read that Fleetwood Mac has issued a four-song EP, available at iTunes, that includes both “Sad Angel” and “Without You.”


One Response to “An Evening With Fleetwood Mac”

  1. Paco Malo says:

    I’d love to see one of those London shows. I’ve still got a crush on Christine.

    And one more thing. I was at a minor league baseball game Saturday evening with some family and friends. The conversation turned to music and Fleetwood Mac. I got to talking about the earlier incarnations of the band and mentioned that it was Peter Green who wrote “Black Magic Woman” from the original Santana band’s second album, Abraxas. I’ve always figured it was the late Bill Graham who engineered that little piece of top 40 magic.

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