REVIEW: ‘There’s no stopping these sublime rockers’

Fleetwood Mac, O2 Arena, gig review: Whatever the band’s internal dynamic, it seems to work for the music

The internal dynamic of the Fleetwood Mac soap opera has always lent an additional frisson of interest to their performances, so the return of Christine McVie after an absence of 16 years made the band’s current show especially intriguing.

No surprise, then, that they should open with “The Chain.” Even without its obvious message that “the chain keeps us together,” it serves to reintroduce all the elements that make the band special: Mick Fleetwood’s earth-shaking bass-drum pulse heralding the re-constitution of those sylvan three-part harmonies, and John McVie’s massive bass bridge leading into the first of a series of dazzling guitar solos from Lindsey Buckingham. If only, in retrospect, they had stayed true to the show’s natural arc and eventually closed with the obvious money-shot encore, “Don’t Stop,” rather than deflating its impact by tacking on several more songs to an already overlong show.

But for a while, there’s no faulting this reunion, which of course relied heavily on Rumours, their defining epic of Californication. Even the weaker numbers, like “Second Hand News” and “Gold Dust Woman,” get an airing, the latter inflated into an interminable bout of melodrama. But once things settle down, there are some sublime performances tonight, several of them from Buckingham, a seriously underrated guitarist. His solo presentation of “Big Love,” a whirligig flurry of acoustic arpeggios and hammered notes, is extraordinary; though I could have done without the preceding lecture on the production of Tango in the Night and how it represented a “meditation on the power and importance of change,” or whatever. It’s almost as if he’s trying to epitomise the West Coast new-age weirdo – and that’s Stevie Nicks’ job, surely?

For her part, Nicks seems delighted to be back front and centre, wafting her witchy black silks and ribbons around and tottering about on spike-heeled platforms like a glam-rock version of the prologue to Macbeth during “Rhiannon.” By contrast, Christine McVie has a more refined deportment, even when hefting an accordion through a set-stopping version of the mighty “Tusk” which, in lieu of an actual horn section, climaxes with a back-projection of the USC Trojans marching-band that played on the original recording. It’s a euphoric, triumphant moment.

For all their claims of friendship, however, there’s something lacking in the onstage dynamic, which fails to shrink the massive space in the way that, say, the Stones do, when Keith and Ronnie lean upon each other like old chums. The three singers seem miles apart, as if reluctant to intrude on one another’s personal space. But whatever their relations, it seems to work for the music, which is uplifting and joyous for the most part. And the most welcome parts of it come from Christine McVie’s return: with songs as potent and engaging as “Little Lies,” “Everywhere,” “Say That You Love Me” and, of course, “Don’t Stop,” she’s always been the warm, welcoming heart of Fleetwood Mac, and it’s wonderful to see her back.

Andy Gill / The Independent (UK) / Sunday, May 31, 2015

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