With Christine McVie, Fleetwood Mac sound refreshed, revitalized at Tampa’s Amalie Arena.[slideshow_deploy id=’34200′]
What does one member mean to a band?
Depends on the band and the member, but if we’re talking Fleetwood Mac and Christine McVie, it’s worth breaking out some stats.
A sold-out crowd of 17,620 packed Tampa’s Amalie Arena Saturday night to catch the Mac on their first tour with the songwriter, pianist and occasional lead singer since 1998. That’s up from 14,071 who came to see them last summer, up from 10,008 in 2009.
Why does McVie hold that kind of sway over the Fleetwood Mac faithful, when the band is better known for its other singers, perpetually linked ex-lovers Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham, who sing their most massive hits?
Just as there are folks who call George their favorite Beatle, many say McVie is Fleetwood Mac’s strongest songsmith, and any version of the band that doesn’t include her just isn’t the same. A reunion with McVie was Fleetwood Mac’s ultimate trump card in their quest for continued relevance in this, their 47th year – a regrouping of their classic Rumours-era lineup, and a reopening of their songbook to classic tracks they haven’t played in years.
On Saturday, Tampa got ‘em all – Say You Love Me, You Make Loving Fun, Little Lies, Everywhere, plus a McVie-led Don’t Stop and Songbird as parting gifts. It was the band’s 40th and final North American concert of 2014, and they must be hitting their stride, because they haven’t sounded this vital and copacetic in years.
“They say what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger,” said Buckingham. “On this particular tour, and this particular moment now, with the return of the beautiful Christine, with her return, I believe that we begin a profound, a poetic and a prolific new chapter in the history of this band.”
Indeed, with McVie back in the fold, Saturday’s show felt more inspired than either of Fleetwood Mac’s previous two trips to Tampa. There was a little less focus on the occasionally melodramatic interplay between Nicks and Buckingham, and a little more focus on the lively, mood-lightening material the pianist penned for the band.
It wasn’t just McVie’s long-dormant ‘70s sing-alongs – 1987’s Tango in the Night, the band’s poppy and peppy final classic-lineup album, also got a welcome workout, with McVie handling lead vocals on the slick confections Everywhere and Little Lies; and Nicks propelling the equally upbeat Seven Wonders.
The lightness and sweetness that McVie brought to the table counterbalanced – perhaps even enhanced – the rest of Fleetwood Mac’s hit-loaded set. Her presence brings out the best in all-world guitarist Buckingham, who got his six-string rocks off on the frenetically fingerpicked Big Love, punkish rave-up I Know I’m Not Wrong and epically barn-burning I’m So Afraid. And as is her wont, Nicks wailed and convulsed like a banshee during the cauldron-boiling Gold Dust Woman and drifted into her inimitable twirl on Gypsy.
Buckingham and Nicks would pair off here and there for stripped-down numbers – Landslide, Never Going Back Again – but the night felt more complete, more celebratory, when all five members were out there together, rocking along like the last 16 years never happened.
Take Tusk: You had Mick Fleetwood rumbling away on his drum kit; Nicks crooning backup and sashaying across the stage; McVie pumping an accordion and coercing her ex-husband, stoic bassist John McVie, into a little soft-shoe shuffle; and Buckingham snarling into a mic, “Don’t say that you love me! Just tell me that you want me!”
As Buckingham kicked and shredded his way back and forth across the stage on Go Your Own Way, lingering for an extra half-measure by the grinning, bobbing McVie, it was clear that her return meant more to Fleetwood Mac than just a few thousand extra tickets sold. In a way, it meant new life.
Jay Cridlin / Tampa Bay Times / Saturday, December 20, 2014