REVIEW: Fleetwood Mac enthusiastically together again

Fleetwood Mac, back intact after 16 years, perform at the Greensboro Coliseum on St. Patrick’s Day, Tuesday, March 17, 2015.

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Photos by Joseph Rodriguez / News & Record

Stevie Nicks moved to the side of the stage to pound her tassled tambourine at the Greensboro Coliseum on Tuesday night while the other members of Fleetwood Mac wailed on “Go Your Own Way.” As she walked behind Christine McVie, Nicks gave her a gentle pat on the back.

It was a fleeting, seemingly offhand gesture, but it summed up the way the band members appear to feel about each other 40 years after this version of the group first coalesced. Christine McVie, who first joined Fleetwood Mac in 1970, returned last year after a 16-year absence. The rest of the group seemed delighted to have her back.

Drummer Mick Fleetwood is one of the band’s founding members along with bass player John McVie, the two giving name to what was originally a British blues band in 1967. During extended introductions in the encore Tuesday night, Fleetwood hailed Christine’s return “making this all so very complete.”

She was in fine voice throughout the show, her creamy alto restoring several classics to the band’s set, including “You Make Loving Fun,” “Dreams,” “Say You Love Me” and “Over My Head.”

Nicks and songwriter-singer-guitarist Lindsey Buckingham joined the band as a unit slightly more than 40 years ago, adding a California pop-rock sensibility that catapulted Fleetwood Mac to stardom — and a notorious, soap opera-style descent into substance abuse, love affairs and acrimony.

In 2015, the band’s set list is still dominated by its two smash-hit albums of the mid 1970s, Fleetwood Mac and Rumours.

The group’s runaway popularity and rock star excesses may have helped inspire the punk rock explosion of that era, but decades later, their own music still has the power to surprise with its burning intensity. That energy came through Tuesday night in multiple songs, particularly “ Rhiannon ,” “Tusk,” “Never Going Back Again” and “Go Your Own Way.”

About 14,000 people attended the 21-song, 2 1/2 -hour concert. Enthusiastic young fans were sprinkled throughout the largely AARP-eligible crowd. The show opened with a ferocious version of “The Chain,” with Christine McVie adding gorgeous harmonies to Buckingham’s lead vocals.

Though the first instrumental solo of the night came from John McVie’s bass, oddly enough, Buckingham quickly reminded the crowd that he started out as something of a proto-Eddie Van Halen. His nimble solo on “The Chain” was fast and fierce, and his undiminished enthusiasm for his art came through in every song. Buckingham’s solo on “Big Love” alluded to classical and flamenco guitar styles.

Nicks told an endearing story to introduce the 1982 hit “Gypsy,” about a 1968 trip to a store in San Francisco where Janis Joplin and Grace Slick bought their clothes. She said her visit gave her a premonition of the stardom awaiting her: “I walked out of that store a different girl.”

She achieved that stardom with a marvelous rock ’n’ roll bleat, a voice that somehow ends up beautiful despite sounding like a cross between Laura Nyro and a goat. She has lost some of her range through the years but still pulled off “Rhiannon,” “Sisters of the Moon,” “Gold Dust Woman” and one of the most beautiful songs in the English language, “Landslide.”

Nicks and Buckingham did that last one as a duet. Band members came and went throughout the concert, the core quintet supplemented by a couple of multi-instrumental utility players and three backing vocalists. Buckingham never left the stage until Fleetwood’s drum solo toward the end.

Fleetwood wore vibrant red shoes, knickers and dangling (ahem) accessories, his entire getup an homage to the outfit he wore on the cover of Rumours. He dropped the drum solo into the frenetic funk of “World Turning,” played during the encore.

Using a headset microphone, he egged the audience on throughout his solo — which was long enough to give the rest of the musicians a breather. Though I would be happy never to hear a drum solo again, I must say that hearing one narrated by a consummate showman like Fleetwood was a refreshing change of pace.

The show ended with the inevitable “Don’t Stop (Thinking About Tomorrow),” one of the big Rumours hits and a song that had a second run in the spotlight as the theme for Bill Clinton’s 1992 presidential campaign.

In a concert dominated by the songs of yesterday, the optimism of the closing number suited a show defined by the band’s enthusiasm for restoration of its classic lineup.

Contact Eddie Huffman at huffman.eddie@gmail.com, and follow @eddiehuffman on Twitter.

Eddie Huffman/ News & Record / Thursday, March 19, 2015