Fleetwood Mac: Wembley Arena, London

CROWDS, HOWEVER passive, make me unhappy. As Eli Wallach said on TV (The Magnificent Seven) last Sunday afternoon, “If God didn’t want them to be sheared, he wouldn’t have made them sheep.”

Thankfully, though, the proliferation of old hippies and nice young couples in Wembley had little to complain about, since (despite the high ticket prices) Fleetwood Mac trimmed their fleece in the nicest possible way. The longhairs were probably a legacy from the Peter Green/blues era of the group who just woke up after a particularly powerful spliff, but the young lovers are definitely the core of the F. Mac audience.

Since they were doing a string of dates in London’s worst empty swimming pool, I checked out Friday’s show for about 45 minutes but gave up when the ache in my rear coincided nicely with Lindsey Buckingham dedicating a simpering ballad to birthday boy Brian Wilson of The Beach Boys, whose brother Dennis is the paramour of Mac-ette Christine McVie (who once slept on Hugh Fielder’s floor). On Sunday night I watched the whole carnival and can’t say I was disappointed, maybe just a little surprised that an institution as aged as this could look so enthusiastic while going about its work. Other mild shocks were in the offing, too.

The general assumption of the all-too-hip is that Mac Mk 148 crystallises the world-weary ennui that reaps plenty post-teen coin, a notion of platinum doze-out reinforced by the band’s gay divorcee image which fuelled the Rumours album. BUT: guitarist Buckingham leapt around like a crippled Action Man with appendicitis while wrenching out piercing screams from his instrument, this admirable racket interlocking with John McVie’s bass lines which grumbled and growled in a manner that’d do Talking Heads no harm at all. If it wasn’t for the interminable but demented jamming on the whip-and-thud of “Not That Funny” they might almost be up for the title of Fleetwood Clash.

Of course, that image don’t gel nohow with Christine McVie’s waif-like vocals and slithering keyboards, or with the image of the girl with (I was bemused to discover) the leastest, frontperson Stevie Nicks (of “Sit On My Face…” banning fame).

Though her spunky voice contributes heftily to funked-up epics like “Break The Chain”, most of the time she does little more than prance around the stage like Southern California’s answer to Kate Bush, dressed in early Seventies stack-heeled footwear of indescribable ugliness, banging a tambourine and waving an increasingly ridiculous array of hippy-trippy dresses in the air.

She occasionally crouches with her head between her legs as if throwing up, as during the dreamy anthem “Rhiannon”, which pose reminds one of what people usually mean when they ask if you’re into Fleetwood Mac these days. She also slips offstage to, er, powder her nose rather a lot.

People do get high on a girl wearing Julie Christie “Far From The Madding Crowd” riding gear while conducting their adulation, I suppose, and even when her voice cracks after two months on the road it does have a kind of gauche charm.

Often emulated (see Heart) but never quite duplicated, they rendered Tusk as a real “intense” but hypnotic mess, roared gently to a halt with “Go Your Own Way” and encored with Nick’s ethereal “Sister Of The Moon” and Christine McVie’s quiet “Songbird”. I was suckered in completely by that point.

I’m only sorry they didn’t do “Train In Vain”.

© Sandy Robertson / Sounds / June 28, 1980

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