All Phones Arena, Sydney
The band who’ve made peace with the past put on a truly group effort, satisfying old, new and future pop lovers with a nostalgia-light set
What brings someone to a Fleetwood Mac concert in 2015? Hazy memories of Rumours the first time round. The bashed up vinyl inherited from a parent. An interview with Haim, wearing their influences as openly as their Stevie Nicks-inspired style. Or pure and simple love of pop, never mind the vintage?
Whatever the reason, Sydney’s All Phones Arena boasts a surprisingly all-ages crowd for the first of Fleetwood Mac’s anticipated Australian dates (a 2013 visit was cancelled when band member John McVie started treatment for cancer).
The band have been on hiatus for three months since the last leg of their On With The Show world tour. Lindsey Buckingham complains of blisters on his fingers. Stevie struggles to remember a well-worn anecdote of her first trip to the Velvet Underground in San Francisco.
At least, they tell us they’re blistering and struggling. From here in the side seats, they’re smashing it out of the Olympic park. And even if the three other bandmates vie for less attention than these famous ex-lovers – Mick Fleetwood happy for the most part behind his drumkit – this is a true group show.
A 23-song set takes us from the predictable opener of Chains to the inevitable closer of Go Your Own Way, plus two encores, the second a stripped-down take on Songbird showcasing Christine McVie, back to complete the Rumours line-up. Between those bookends, the biggest crowd reactions come for Tusk, with its relentless Trojan marching beat and later, Buckingham’s guitar-geek pleasing – if somewhat indulgent – solo on Big Love.
You’d expect a night of nostalgia and, sure, we get some songs that haven’t been performed for years: Tusk album track, Think About Me, for example, which “didn’t do very well at the time but we’ve always been rather fond of,” says Christine McVie.
But overall, there’s a sense that the band who say they are in their “last act” have made peace with the past. Introducing Bleed to Love Her (last done live in 1997), it’s Buckingham once again who brings up the heartbreak and breakups and breakdowns that make up the Fleetwood Mac truth and myth.
With everyone back together, “you have to assume a great deal of love,” he concludes – what were songs of “alienation” are now songs of “meditation”. Don’t start, Lindsey. We’ve already got Stevie for all that hippy dippy stuff. The tiny queen of the twirl clops around unselfconciously in her black platforms and shawls, her voice as unforced as her persona.
What brings someone to a Fleetwood Mac gig? In my case, it’s rescuing a friend, a first-time mother who’s barely slept in four-and-a-half months. The wall-to-wall hits visibly revive her, but we each have our songs we need to hear. Mine’s Everywhere. It comes early and doesn’t disappoint, Christine McVie’s vocals unshowy, the song dripping with the tingly feels it’s always had.
My companion is waiting for Landslide, which doesn’t turn up for over an hour. Nicks launches into a rambling “Don’t give up on your dreams” speech before duetting with Buckingham into the familiar chorus: “Time makes you bolder / Even children get older / And I’m getting older too.”
The next day I get a message on my phone – “I was singing to Zara all morning” – and a photo of a smiling baby. Looks like the Mac magic is winning over another generation.
Fleetwood Mac play Sydney, 24 and 25 October, then tour Australia.
Nancy Groves / The Guardian / Friday, October 24, 2015