REVIEW: Fleetwood Mac turns back time in Milwaukee

Fleetwood Mac performs live at the BMO Harris Bradley Center in Milwaukee during ‘On with the Show’ tour

Rating: * * * * * (5 stars)

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On the road since August 2014, Fleetwood Mac pulled into Milwaukee’s BMO Harris Bradley Center on Feb. 12 for their “On with the Show” tour. Performing without an opening act, it was the 54th show on this extensive trek and featured the five core members who took the band to multiplatinum success with the chart-topping Rumours in 1977.

Christine McVie rejoined Mick Fleetwood, John McVie, Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks on this tour for the first time since her retirement in 1998. Opening with “The Chain” seemed an appropriate start to the show and quickly brought fans to their feet. “You Make Loving Fun” followed as a de facto tribute to Christine’s return to the band.

Major vocal highlights of the show included Buckingham’s acoustic and cathartic “Big Love,” McVie’s beautifully harmonic “You Make Loving Fun,” and Nicks’ haunting breakup anthem “Silver Springs,” arguably her best performance of the night next to “Gold Dust Woman.”

McVie, Nicks and Buckingham indulged the audience by sharing their memories and inspiration for certain songs during the show. Nicks shared a particularly poignant story when she introduced early ’80s hit “Gypsy.” She spoke to the audience about her first trip to San Francisco’s famed Velvet Underground clothing store in the ‘60s that’s referenced in the song. This store was frequented by Janis Joplin and Nicks’ memory of being there offered a sweet, deeply personal look into her starstruck thoughts of Janis Joplin before eventually achieving rock stardom herself.

Musically the show was without flaw. The rhythm tandem of John McVie and Fleetwood on bass and drums, respectively, served as a solid backbone. However, it was Buckingham on guitar who provided the heart and musical fabric that set the tone for the entire production. Buckingham pumped vitality into the show—bouncing around the stage and remaining at the forefront for most of the evening. His technical chops and unique guitar play continue to be a perfect complement to Mick and John. “I’m So Afraid” best showcased that intricate relationship given the constant battle between guitar and rhythm throughout the song.

Fleetwood Mac finished their set proper more than two hours after it began with crowd-favorite, “Go Your Own Way.” They returned for an encore that began with “World Turning,” featuring Mick Fleetwood’s percussive prowess. Fleetwood clearly relished his drum solo during the song that included an eccentric call and response between him and the audience. Christine then led them through “Don’t Stop” before Nicks finished with “Silver Springs.” They returned for a second encore to perform “Songbird” that reaffirmed Christine’s triumphant return to the band, and offered a perfect bookend to the show. Mick sat proudly in Christine’s shadow, listening and dramatically tipping his red top hat to her as she played the final song of the night.

Their setlist has remained fixed for the duration of the tour, and was chosen to highlight each member’s talents while also reflecting upon their bevy of hit singles. With a band of Fleetwood Mac’s caliber, fan base and massive catalog they’re not going to hit on everybody’s personal favorite song. However, it would be nice if they left room for a few songs that rotate each night for a surprise deep cut or other favorite hitnin lieu of performing the identical show each night. That said, they’ve cultivated the concert into a finely tuned machine.

This band has been touring and playing together for more than 35 years and it shows. They have a unique and remarkable chemistry and sound. And, despite Buckingham’s numerous references to being an old man, he and the Mac still delivered a commanding two-and-a-half hour performance.

Remaining Fleetwood Mac 2015 tour dates:

Feb. 14 – Rosemont, Ill. @ Allstate Arena
Feb. 17 – Louisville, Kent. @ KFC YUM! Center
Feb. 18 – Cleveland, Ohio @ Quicken Loans Arena
March 1 – Austin, Texas @ Frank Erwin Center
March 3 – Houston, Texas @ Toyota Center
March 4 – Dallas, Texas @ American Airlines Center
March 7 – Charlotte, N.C. @ Time Warner Cable Arena
March 8 – Knoxville, Tenn. @ Thompson – Boling Arena
March 11 – North Little Rock, Ark. @ Verizon Arena
March 12 – Oklahoma City, Okla. @ Chesapeake Energy Arena
March 15 – Charlottesville, Va. @ John Paul Jones Arena
March 17 – Greensboro, N.C. @ Greensboro Coliseum
March 18 – Nashville, Tenn. @ Bridgestone Arena
March 21 – Miami, Fla. @ American Airlines Arena
March 23 – Orlando, Fla. @ Amway Center
March 25 – Atlanta, Ga. @ Philips Arena
March 27 – St. Louis, Mo. @ Scottrade Center
March 28 – Kansas City, Mo. @ Sprint Center
March 31 – Wichita, Kans. @ INTRUST Bank Arena
April 1 – Denver, Colo. @ Pepsi Center
April 4 – Vancouver, B.C. @ Rogers Arena
April 6 – Bakersfield, Calif. @ Rabobank Arena
April 7 – Oakland, Calif. @ Oracle Arena
April 10 – Los Angeles, Calif. @ The Forum
April 11 – Las Vegas, Nev. @ MGM Grand Garden Arena
April 14 – Los Angeles, Calif. @ The Forum
May 27 – London, U.K. @ O2 Arena
May 28 – London, U.K. @ O2 Arena
May 31 – Amsterdam @ Ziggo Dome
June 1 – Amsterdam @ Ziggo Dome

Daniel DeSlover / Madison Music Examiner / Saturday, February 14, 2015

REVIEW: Fleetwood Mac @ BMO Harris Bradley Center

Fleetwood Mac, the irrepressible pop-rock engine, rolled into Milwaukee Thursday with a huff and puff and as much energy as its aging members could muster. All things considered, that energy proved to be considerable.

(Photo: Danielle Dahl)
(Photo: Danielle Dahl)

Guitarist Lindsey Buckingham, who turns 66 on Oct. 3, is the band’s youngest member, and the numbers only go up from there. But none of that mattered to a mixed-age audience of the faithful, who all but filled the BMO Harris Bradley Center. Given that the band’s lineup also included stalwarts Mick Fleetwood on drums, John McVie on bass, vocalist Stevie Nicks on ribbon-bedecked tambourine, and for the first time in a long, long time, vocalist Christine McVie on keyboards, Fleetwood Mac’s most successful combination was back together again.

Given the age of its members, the band fairly well rocked the walls with a running list of favorite hits on the 54th concert of its current tour. The group played against a fairly engaging backdrop of downright inventive visual imagery that helped drive some the audience’s elder members to gyrate and throb as if on some virulent form of Ecstasy (or perhaps Metamucil).

(Photo: Danielle Dahl)
(Photo: Danielle Dahl)

You name the hit, Fleetwood Mac played it, with a sometimes manic-looking Fleetwood mallet-thumping the skins with almost youthful abandon. Cancer survivor John McVie literally hid in the shadow of Fleetwood’s massive drum kit, while his ex-wife, Christine, Nicks and Buckingham formed the band’s frontline.

The nearly three-hour concert opened with “The Chain,” “You Make Loving Fun” and “Dreams” before the band even engaged its visuals. The concert’s pace was measured and the between-song banter bright enough to keep the musicians familiar and endearing, although Buckingham’s yelps and squawks made him sound like an overage rocker bad-boy long gone to seed.

Years on the road no doubt offered some insights to the aging arena rockers, who were supported by a much younger seven-piece squad of musicians, including three female backup singers, performing in shadow behind the band. The youngsters helped round out the sound and fill the cavernous hall, but Buckingham’s impressive guitar work still fronted the performance, reminding all what an accomplished musician he really is.

(Photo: Danielle Dahl)
(Photo: Danielle Dahl)

Familiar hits filled the show, including “Rhiannon,” a trippy “Tusk,” “Gypsy,” a touching “Landslide” performed by Nicks and Buckingham, “Go Your Own Way” and others for a 24-song lineup.

Early on Buckingham welcomed Christine McVie back, saying the band was on its way to a “profound, poetic and I think a prolific new chapter.” Despite that, Christine McVie’s anthem “Don’t Stop” was not on the evenings’ playlist.

Maybe the future won’t be quite as progressive as Buckingham thinks, but in the minds and hearts of the faithful, the only “tomorrow” they’re concerned about is one in which Fleetwood Mac comes back real soon.

Michael Muckian / Express Milwaukee / Saturday, February 14, 2015

VIDEOS 2/12: BMO Harris Bradley Center, Milwaukee WI

Fleetwood Mac performed at the BMO Harris Bradley Center in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, on Thursday night.

Click here to see all coverage of the ON WITH THE SHOW Tour.

Date Venue Location Reviews Show # Total
Thursday, February 12, 2015 BMO Harris Bradley Center Milwaukee, Wisconsin
  1. Express Milwaukee
  2. Journal Sentinel
  3. Madison Music Examiner
15 55

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Videos

Thanks to Jesse Burnette, erock2229, Jalai Lama, Mark Lazarewicz, and SpaceAgeWhizKids for sharing these videos!

Dreams (erock2229)

Second Hand News (erock2229)

Rhiannon (erock2229)

I Know I’m Not Wrong (erock2229)

Tusk (erock2229)

Sisters of the Moon (erock2229)

Seven Wonders (erock2229)

Seven Wonders (SpaceAgeWhizKids)

Big Love (erock2229)

Big Love (Jesse Burnette)

Landslide – partial (Jesse Burnette)

Gypsy (erock2229)

Little Lies (SpaceAgeWhizKids)

Gold Dust Woman (Mark Lazarewicz)

Gold Dust Woman – partial (Jalai Lama)

I’m So Afraid (erock2229)

World Turning (erock2229)

Don’t Stop (erock2229)

Silver Springs (erock2229)

Songbird (erock2229)

Set List

1. The Chain 13. Landslide
2. You Make Lovin’ Fun 14. Never Going Back Again
3. Dreams 15. Over My Head
4. Second Hand News 16. Gypsy
5. Rhiannon 17. Little Lies
6. Everywhere 18. Gold Dust Woman
7. I Know I’m Not Wrong 19. I’m So Afraid
8. Tusk 20. Go Your Own Way
9. Sisters of the Moon 21. World Turning
10. Say You Love Me 22. Don’t Stop
11. Seven Wonders 23. Silver Springs
12. Big Love 24. Songbird

REVIEW: Moments of strength, flatness for Fleetwood Mac

With Christine McVie back in Fleetwood Mac after more than 16 years, singer and guitarist Lindsey Buckingham told a near-capacity BMO Harris Bradley Center Thursday “we begin a profound, poetic and I think a prolific new chapter.”

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Can’t say Thursday’s show was always profound, and its highly doubtful Mac–which dropped its self-titled album, the first with gamechanging additions Buckingham and singer Stevie Nicks, four decades ago this year–is going to be all that prolific going forward.

But it did seem Buckingham and most of the band believed the words he was saying. And that conviction, coupled with enduring talent and classic rock songs, was enough to make Thursday’s two-and-a-half-hour show, the 54th on its current tour, a nice little footnote for Milwaukee fans.

McVie, however, seemed to live by very different words she uttered: “I’m not as strong as I used to be,” as sung during “Say You Love Me.” Her appearance was welcome for sentimental reasons, evident by the warm response when she took lead vocals for the first time in the night, for “You Make Loving Fun.” But there were moments of vocal flatness–most obvious at concert’s end for her signature “Songbird,” alone on piano with Buckingham on electric guitar–and McVie lacked the charisma of her now more-seasoned singing bandmates. Even drummer Mick Fleetwood–perched behind his decked-out kit with chimes and gong–had more pizaaz, albeit perhaps too much when he disguised a lengthy and ultimately none too impressive drum solo during “World Turning” with hollow, hype-fanning pseudo scat-speak.

There were other moments of self-indulgence. “Go Your Own Way,” one of several enduring singles from the band’s mega-blockbuster “Rumours,” ends on the album with a sudden, anti-climactic fade, but Thursday’s drawn-out jam session finale wasn’t much of an improvement. And Buckingham, like Fleetwood, was a ham, yelping like a cowboy between some songs, cackling like a pirate at the start of a still-rollicking “Tusk,” and stomping about like a toddler throwing a tantrum once the song was over. His voice, while emotionally charged, was also a touch raw compared to the heavenly harmonies of Mac’s ’70s heyday. But his guitar playing, from the bluesy build on concert-opener “The Chain” to the bittersweet beauty of his acoustic guitar on “Landslide,” was consistently exquisite.

Nicks acknowledged before “Landslide”–performed with just Buckingham by her side–that the pair had performed the song hundreds of times. But in dedicating it to her late father–it was his favorite song, she said–she still conveyed the same quiet majesty she brought to the first recording forty years ago.

Her alluring voice and mystical charisma led the band through anthemic yet intimate soft rock charmers like “Dreams,” “Rhiannon” and “Gold Dust Woman,” a setlist of hits so great, the band can be excused if that “prolific new chapter” never comes. After all, Fleetwood Mac already created a story for the ages.

THE TAKEAWAYS

  • The best part of the concert was a more stripped-down five song set that included a few fond recollections about the origins of “Big Love” and “Gypsy.” If Mac is really seeking a profound new chapter, it should consider a storytellers-oriented tour in smaller venues.
  • One reason the harmonies sounded so great Thursday was because there were up to five backing singers (two of them also supporting instrumentalists). Fleetwood let those musicians take a bow–but not once did he acknowledge a second drummer who played hidden behind speaker stacks. For most of the night the drummer was helping Fleetwood fill out the sound, but Fleetwood himself did handle his drum solo actually solo.
  • Noted banter: “On a personal note, let me quickly say how grateful I am and how fantastic it is to be standing here on this stage with these amazing musicians who are my musical family.” – Christine McVie

THE SETLIST

1. “The Chain”

2. “You Make Loving Fun”

3. “Dreams”

4. “Second Hand News”

5. “Rhiannon”

6. “Everywhere”

7. “I Know I’m Not Wrong”

8. “Tusk”

9. “Sisters of the Moon”

10. “Say You Love Me”

11. “Seven Wonders”

12. “Big Love” (Lindsey Buckingham solo)

13. “Landslide” (Stevie Nicks and Buckingham solo)

14. “Never Going Back Again”

15. “Over My Head”

16. “Gypsy”

17. “Little Lies”

18. “Gold Dust Woman”

19. “I’m So Afraid”

20. “Go Your Own Way”

Encore

21. “World Turning”

22. “Don’t Stop”

23. “Silver Springs”

Second Encore

24. “Songbird” (Christine McVie and Buckingham solo

Piet Levy / Milwaukee Journal Sentinel / Thursday, February 12, 2015

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Did you buy a premium ticket for Fleetwood Mac at the BMO Harris Bradley Center? Music writer Piet Levy is working on a feature story on VIP concert experiences. If you wish to be featured, email him at plevy@journalsentinel.com by Feb. 18.

Piet Levy talks about concerts to see, local music and more on “TAP’d In” with Jordan Lee, 8 a.m. Thursdays on WYMS-FM (88.9).