REVIEW: Fleetwood Mac on Mirage tour

FLEETWOOD MAC’S records have always been better than its live shows. On records, the band has achieved a lovable blend of lyrical effervescence and studio polish. In concert, subtleties have been coarsened and Stevie Nicks in particular has undercut her impact with raw singing and loopy stage behavior.

But the band’s only New York area show on its current Mirage tour, Tuesday night at the Brendan Byrne Arena in East Rutherford, N.J., was the best Fleetwood Mac show in this writer’s experience. Miss Nicks has found a persuasive way of capitalizing on her assets, and the band as a whole performed with tightness and intensity.

”Pleasing” is the operative word, however. Even with as tight and powerful a rhythm section as rock can offer, in Mick Fleetwood and John McVie, Fleetwood “hit” Mac is not a band to build to overwhelming concert climaxes. Quirky, buoyant pop, soulful lyricism and mysterious witcheries are more its game. The set meandered over its two-hour length, bursting out at the beginning with some of the group’s most impassioned songs but then settling down to more commonplace ups and downs.

Miss Nicks provided several of the ups. She has lost the reedy fragility of her mid-1970’s voice. But she compensates with a hoarser, rougher rock contralto, and her stage demeanor blends glamour and a kind of dangerous charm. Lindsey Buckingham still has an underlying streak of bizarreness that seems more unsettling than stimulating, and his rave-up guitar solo — as well as Mr. Fleetwood’s drum solo — lacked the communicative artistry that such solos can entail; it was mostly note-ridden bedazzlement, and as such elicited the predictable ovation. But Mr. Buckingham is also responsible for some of the group’s best songs, and his clear, effortlessly produced tenor is now the highest voice in the band.

Christine McVie, the keyboard player and third singer — there was also an anonymous guitarist on stage for some songs — was disappointing. Or, more properly, the uses to which she was put were disappointing. Her songs have always served as calm, cool contrast to the rest, but Tuesday they were slighted or arranged in an overly forceful manner.

The set as a whole proved valuable beyond its function as tightly crafted entertainment. Never before has the band’s post-Buckingham Nicks material seemed so much of a piece. The Fleetwood Mac album established this configuration, with Rumours as a venturesome yet commercially potent follow-up. Tusk is generally considered a deviation, however, and Mirage a calculated return to form.

But Tuesday’s performance stressed the disquieting oddities of the supposedly “safe” material and the accessibility of much of Tusk. It’s all one band, a perilous but potent mixture of unstable ingredients. And while it may not aspire to the heights of rock passion, it still makes honorable, even moving music lower down on the slopes.

John Rockwell / New York Times / September 16, 1982

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