CONCERT REVIEW: Fleetwood Mac rock Madison Square Garden

Fleetwood Mac
Madison Square Garden
New York City
Monday, April 8, 2013

Former lovers and once and future bandmates Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham offer up a musical reality show

By Jim Farber
New York Daily News
Tuesday, April 9, 2013, 12:32 PM

At both the start and the finish of Fleetwood Mac’s stellar set at Madison Square Garden on Monday, the group sang about the ties that bind.

“Chains keep us together,” sang Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks early in the night, intoning the words like a warning.

“You can never get away from a woman who loves you,” Nicks echoed in “Silver Springs,” stressing the lyric as a threat.

In a sense, she was being quite literal.

More than 30 years after Buckingham and Nicks flamed-out their romantic relationship they’re still re-inhabiting songs that chronicle every scar and slight.

You could say they’re milking it, but there’s a reason the dynamic continues to thrill. In fact, there are many — all of them on generous display at the Garden.

First, of course, there’s the music — an impeccable mix of pop sheen and rock fervor. Then, there’s the power of the singers’ personalities. More, there’s the enduring truths their songs have to impart about the kind of love that far outlasts romance.

In making the lives of all their members so porous — way back in the ‘70s — Mac arose as the culture’s first musical reality show. They whipped life and art into a scary, wondrous, self-exploiting mix — to their great commercial gain, no less. The result has given their songs so much subtext, there’s barely room left over for text.

These days, Mac has focused their view. Some years back, their third great songwriter, Christine McVie, retired, in the process changing the whole dynamic of the band. Without McVie’s breezy ballads, and affable air, the group turned harder, rockier and, obviously, more firmly centered on the Nicks/Buckingham axis.

The duo’s bond predates their Mac days. They put out one bomb album in 1973, a disc they alluded to during the show. They also performed a song written at that time, which they never recorded. That piece, “Without You,” had a folk-rock fluidity, typical of its era, along an idealized lyric. Hearing it in this context turned it into a moving testimony to failed dreams.

The show offered a tease of the future as well. The band performed one new song, “Sad Angels,” which, as Buckingham revealed, will be released on an EP this week. It had a country-rock gait and a chorus you could instantly hum.

In between, the band packed the night with hits, though they didn’t always pick the safest ones. A third of the way through they offered four pieces from their quirkiest album, “Tusk,” including Nicks’ moody “Sisters of the Moon.” The singer said they haven’t performed that song in over 30 years.

Most of the hits were delivered faithfully, though with enough altered harmonies to shake off any mold. Buckingham performed the greatest alterations to “Never Going Back Again,” tearing down the verses to hone each word into a dagger.

Without McVie in the mix, Buckingham took more room for his fleet guitar work. His brisk fingerings on “Big Love,” treated Spanish guitar techniques like speed metal, while his long solo in “So Afraid,” built to an orgasmic peak.

For her part, Nicks sounded in fine voice, with more air behind her, and less nasality. The rhythm section of Mick Fleetwood and John McVie retained its muscularity, aided by two extra musicians on keyboards and second guitar.

At the close of the two-and-a-half hour show, Buckingham performed the song, “Say Goodbye,” a sad kiss-off which he positioned as the flip side of their earlier ode to pie-eyed love, “Without You.” Singing the trembling melody with Nicks, the unending bonds of their lives seemed less like a chained burden than a sweet commitment, a vow that need never be revoked.