* * * (3 out of 5 stars)
Thirty-six years after Rumours became the soundtrack to the age of divorce, four of the five people that made it are reliving their personal dramas once more. With their soft rock masterpiece from 1977, Fleetwood Mac articulated the new rules of relationships, capturing the reality of affairs, tensions, betrayals and break-ups and selling over 40 million copies in the process.
They also documented their own reality. Singer Stevie Nicks was splitting up from guitarist Lindsey Buckingham, songwriter Christine and bassist John McVie were getting divorced, drummer Mick Fleetwood was stuck in the middle, and they dealt with it all in the best way Seventies rock stars in Los Angeles could: by taking huge amounts of cocaine. Now all but Christine McVie have come back for more. Without the cocaine.
Buckingham said that Rumours “brought out the voyeur in everyone”. It also spoke to millions: the emotional truth of the music jumped out of the grooves. Judging by the hordes filling a packed O2 arena, it still does. Floaty scarves hung from Nicks’ microphone, but beyond that the stage was bare: fitting for a concert dedicated to an album defined by its simplicity.
Nicks channelled her inner hippy witch in a black sequinned ensemble, emerging from the shadows to launch into Second Hand News, one of the many songs on Rumours expressing the bitterness of being a cast-off lover. Then it was time for The Chain, the most starkly autobiographical song about the love tangle, its irresistibly simple beat sounding as fresh as ever.
After all these years, it was strange to watch Nicks singing Dreams as Buckingham, Fleetwood Mac’s resident tortured artist and the subject of the song’s words, played guitar next to her. Fleetwood, cocooned behind an enormous drum kit, looked, with his flat cap, black tights and lolling tongue, like a cockney jester on day release.
“Every time we come back together it’s different . . . it appears there are still a few chapters left in the story of Fleetwood Mac,” said Buckingham, before giving the audience their cue to rush to the bar: a new number. In the event, Sad Angel was a pretty decent slice of California rock, and Nicks followed it up with Rhiannon, her song about a Welsh witch that put her on the map. Her throaty delivery was perfect for the song’s combination of spooky mystery and Top 40 appeal.
Buckingham gave himself a metaphorical pat on the back when he introduced a few songs from Tusk, the non-commercial follow-up to Rumours and very much his album.
“I’d like to have been a fly on the wall when Warner Brothers first heard Tusk,” he chuckled, before celebrating his uncompromising genius by singing It’s Not That Funny.
“That electric crazy attraction between Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks never dies,” Nicks said recently. Whether Buckingham, married with kids, would agree with her is debatable, but the pair did play a touching, tender version of Landslide together. Buckingham managed to silence the arena with a solo acoustic rendition of Never Going Back Again.
As a testament to the power of mainstream rock, it was hard to beat. And after Fleetwood played a drum solo while muttering something unintelligible, the band launched into Don’t Stop, proving there is nothing more powerful than a perfect song.
Expert views on the best of the performing arts, Times2, page 11
Will Hodgkinson / The Times (UK) / Wednesday, September 24, 2013