Christine McVie’s return lifts Fleetwood Mac back on its Hall of Fame Pedestal
CLEVELAND, Ohio – Mick Fleetwood said it best Wednesday night.
Rising his full 6-foot-5 frame from behind his massive DW drum set, he pointed to keyboardist-vocalist-songwriter Christine McVie, on tour with her Fleetwood Mac bandmates for the first time in 16 years.
“Making all this complete,” the wild-eyed Fleetwood thundered to a sold-out Quicken Loans Arena as the spotlight shone on McVie. “Yes, indeed, our songbird has returned!”
It’s so, so true.
Two years ago, Fleetwood Mac sans McVie cut a wide swath through the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame band’s expansive catalog, relying on vocals from Stevie Nicks, who never had much range to begin with and has lost much of that over time, and a valiant effort by guitarist-vocalist Lindsey Buckingham. It wasn’t a marathon sonic waterboarding, but those limitations did make for some torturous moments over the course of more than 21/2 hours.
Wednesday night was a completely different experience.
With McVie back on keys, and her still-strong mezzo-soprano offering lead and harmony vocals, the night became a 160-minute prayer that the inevitable end would not happen.
Perhaps oddly, the greatest benefactors of McVie’s presence – aside from those of us in the listening audience – were Nicks and Buckingham.
Gone was the pressure on Nicks to carry an entire night of songs, many of which are out of her throaty wheelhouse.
Gone was the need for Buckingham to fill gaps with guitar solos in a valiant but futile attempt to fool us into thinking something wasn’t missing.
Instead, the two were able to focus on their strengths and the songs for which they are known.
For Nicks, that would be the ethereal “Rhiannon,” the cosmic (although pitchy) “Sisters of the Moon,” the wrenching “Landslide,” the autobiographical “Gypsy” and the even more autobiographical “Gold Dust Woman.”
Buckingham, a more than capable vocalist himself, could tackle “I Know I’m Not Wrong” “Big Love,” “Never Going Back Again” and “I’m So Afraid” (albeit with a bit too much FX on the last for my taste) and deliver the goods on the iconic “Tusk.”
But more than that, McVie’s presence seemed to free him to be what he really is: one of the best – and most unique – guitarists in rock ‘n’ roll.
His Rick Turner Model 1 guitar alternately screamed, wailed, cried, crooned and wooed throughout the night, as he furiously attacked the strings with his finger-picking style.
To be fair, he did that last time, too, and just about as well. But in 2013, it seemed like he was trying to fill those voids created by McVie’s absence. It ended up like rowing with only one oar, and all you do is go in circles.
McVie’s presence was felt from the opening strains the show-starting “The Chain,” and just got stronger with every lead and harmony vocal she did.
She killed “You Make Loving Fun” and took 14,000 of us with on a trip to “Everywhere.” “Say You Love Me” turned into a tour de force of her voice and Buckingham’s guitar work that would’ve made the night complete had it ended just there.
But it didn’t. “Over My Head” and “Little Lies” were spectacular with her in the lead role, and her harmony vocals on other songs helped recreate the lush sound for which Fleetwood Mac is known.
And yet, as important as McVie’s vocals were Wednesday night, there seemed to be a bigger thing at work. Every member of Fleetwood Mac, including bassist John McVie, her ex-husband, seemed content to have her back in the fold.
Fleetwood was right: The band is complete now. Life is good. For them, and for us.
Fleetwood Mac – including Christine McVie – returns to Quicken Loans Arena
CLEVELAND, Ohio — A piano with 87 keys can get close, but it will never be right. So it was that Fleetwood Mac minus keyboardist and singer Christine McVie could never be right.
That’s changed now, just in time for the band’s Wednesday, Feb. 18 gig at Quicken Loans Arena.
McVie, who was always “the quiet one in a band known for larger-than-life personalities like her ex-husband, bassist John McVie; singer-guitarist Lindsey Buckingham; Buckingham’s ex, the raspy-voiced ethereal Stevie Nicks; and the role model for the Muppets’ skins-pounder Animal, drummer Mick Fleetwood, has rejoined the band.
This is how Caroline Sullivan, a writer with the British newspaper The Guardian put it:
“The welcome she’s received from fans and press has been clamorous; with McVie back in the fold, Fleetwood Mac are finally whole again.”
For 16 years — with the exception of a one-off show in England in 2013 and the band’s 1998 induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame — McVie and Fleetwood Mac had lived separate musical lives.
And the band was worse off for it.
I’ve seen a couple of “reunion” shows during the self-imposed hiatus by McVie, whose bluesy alto always was my favorite part of the band behind Rumours, Tusk and more. None has impressed me.
Nicks, though she retains the demure look that made her the stuff of dreams for many a young man back in the ’70s — and yes, I speak from experience — is just too vocally one-dimensional to carry a band.
Here’s how I put it in my review of their June 2013 concert at The Q:
“But Fleetwood Mac has always been about the vocals, and as the saying goes, therein lies the rub. Nicks still LOOKS 25, but she’s 65 now, and her already limited range is even more limited. Not that much, you understand, but enough to make a difference. To use a sports analogy, it’s like a home run hitter who’s lost a few mph off his swing; balls that used to reach the bleachers are now warning-track outs.”
I wouldn’t say that it was the worst show I saw that year, but I will say it didn’t even crack the top 10 in terms of best shows.
That is likely to change with McVie back in the fold of the band in which she was a part even before Buckingham and Nicks. And while those two seem to get most of the songwriting credit, the reality is that Christine McVie’s pen was a huge part of the success that put the band in the Rock Hall.
“Songbird,” off the Rumours album, is a soaring testament to the beauty of her voice and her subtle touch on the keys, coupled with Fleetwood’s deft but understated cymbal accents, turns a simple song into classic.
“Little Lies,” may be a little over-produced — a common trait during the 1980s when albums like its home, Tango in the Night, were being made — but it’s remarkable for its purity of lyric and hooks.
Of course, “Don’t Stop” is, was and ever shall be her signature Fleetwood Mac song. The tune, also on the Rumours album, which came out in 1977, is as much a part of the band’s history as Fleetwood’s bug-eyed grin, Nicks’ dreamy dress twirls, John McVie’s solid bass lines and Buckingham’s fret-burning guitar runs.
At 71, Christine McVie is the eldest member of the band, trailed by John, 69; Fleetwood, 67; Nicks, 66; and Buckingham, 65. As crass as it may sound, the deaths of Ian McLagan and Joe Cocker and Jack Bruce have brought home to me — and I suspect to some of their peers — that there IS such a thing as mortality.
So I’m really glad that McVie called the band after what was supposed to be a one-off show in 2013 and asked how they’d feel about her coming back, and that they welcome her with open arms.
You see, I just passed along my vinyl copies of Rumours and Tusk to my daughter and her family, and we spent a night during my last visit to their home listening to them, marveling about how good Fleetwood Mac was back then, and wondering if they could be again.
“And that’s a magical thing.” Stevie Nicks closed Fleetwood Mac’s Cleveland concert last Saturday, June 15, with this sentiment as she talked about the reciprocity between they the artists writing and performing songs and we the audience listening to the songs and giving our experience back to them. Stevie said that the thought came to her a few weeks into this tour that we listen to their songs each time as though we were hearing them for the first time. Indeed, we do. This is not difficult because each show is unique. Or, as my friend Jayne says, “To the untrained eye, it may look like the same show….” Some Fleetwood Mac shows are intense, some are emotional and personal, some are rife with wit and quirky humor, some are big-city show-stoppers.
Cleveland was the happy show. The band seemed happy, the audience seemed happy, the people around me were happy, and I was happy. Stevie smiled, grinned, and generally seemed bemused. Lindsey raced around the stage, jumping and emoting. Granted, they do these things at every show, but something about the happy aspect seemed more real in Cleveland, more true to the mood. “Don’t Stop,” which I tend to regard as an audience-pleaser, not an artistic masterpiece, was a delight. At that show, I really believed that I would look to tomorrow for hope and potential.
“Sara,” which follows intensely and beautifully from “Sisters of the Moon” in a mystical song sequencing triumph that I don’t entirely understand, hits all the notes of melancholy, yet Stevie has turned it into an inkling of hopefulness. When she changes the lyric “And now it’s gone, it doesn’t matter anymore,” to “It’s never gone, it always matters what for,” on the last pass, she sings it like she absolutely wishes for us to understand that sentiment above all else. I think it’s a teaching moment for her.
Every time, and I do mean every single time, I have seen “Stand Back,” I am always surprised and delighted. My short-term memory is apparently not very responsive, because “Stand Back” is in every Fleetwood Mac concert I’ve ever seen. It was a party in Cleveland, a crowd rouser for a crowd that was already gung-ho with enthusiasm.
On the darker and more intense side, “Gold Dust Woman” remains the phenomenon that it has become on this tour. I’m amazed that a human being can go that deeply into an experience and character, manifesting despair and darkness, and come out of it to thank the audience with a smile and a wave. There was a moment in Stevie’s performance in Cleveland, after the first chanted “running in the shadows” section, when Stevie does a sort of tranced-out dance of despair and comes back to the microphone. Looking at her expression, I thought, “That’s not Stevie right now.” She allowed herself to so embody the character that she creates in the story that her nature seemed changed. That’s a great performance.
The end of “Silver Springs” was also compelling, and, I thought a little more unhinged than I’ve seen at other times. I’ve noticed that whenever she lets the “never get away” emotions fly as Lindsey eggs her on, her voice, when she comes back to the microphone for the last line of the song, is fuller and richer. She really worked her voice over each syllable and sustained those notes. My overly-analytical mind thought, “I really love the way she sang the word ‘green.’” This is why it’s never the same show twice, and why my normal-world friends roll their eyes and tell me they hope I had fun at the show.
Lindsey is always *right there* with his songs, never holding himself back. He seemed to have an extra special dose of energy on Saturday. I always pay attention during “Big Love,” but I must admit that I sometimes start thinking of other things during the song: I’m thirsty, I wonder where I parked my car, that sort of thing. Not so in Cleveland. What in some shows seems like frenzy was in this show pure energy, like running exuberantly toward the edge of a cliff and somehow landing relatively safely on the other side.
I have become a fan of the live version of “Sad Angel,” the song from Fleetwood Mac’s new little album of four songs. Lindsey starts the song so earnestly and with such energy that I can’t help but be swept along. Mick’s drum tempo and John’s bass are so quintessentially Fleetwood Mac, and the lyrics so mythologically Lindsey and Stevie, that the song sounds like it should always have been part of their repertoire. Lindsey introduces the song with a lot of enthusiasm for their creative future as a band, and the audience in Cleveland seemed to accept the song wholeheartedly. Win/win.
Never one to miss an opportunity to discuss creative stagnation in the music industry, Lindsey introduced the four songs in the Tusk Movement of the concert by saying that they tried to “subvert the axiom” of the music industry’s repetition-until-death formula when they created Tusk. I love that he launched from that opening speech into “Not That Funny,” a great tune to follow a discussion of axioms and subversion.
Let’s discuss “Say Goodbye” then and now. When Lindsey and Stevie sang “Say Goodbye” on the Say You Will tour, I thought Lindsey and Stevie made an honest effort, and the (general) audience sometimes paid attention, and sometimes took a drink or restroom break. On this tour, ten years later, I think “Say Goodbye” is a solidifying closing song. Lindsey led the way vocally, and Stevie sang both high and low harmony parts to him. Seeing them sing and respond to each other was so compelling that I don’t mind the sustained neck pain that I endured the next day from whipping my attention back and forth between the two. Watching between Stevie and Lindsey when they are really on is often like watching the serve and volley of a professional tennis match.
These vocals and the visuals are why they were once before and are now again such a dynamic musical duo. It’s a great and final ending to a show that changes the landscape of Fleetwood Mac almost to a duo within a duo—Stevie and Lindsey in their mutual musical worlds backed up and led by Mick and John. This might not be the classic Fleetwood Mac that became supremely famous together, but it is a kind of reinvention that makes them creative, awesome, and, let’s face it, fun, going into the future. For that, Fleetwood Mac, Cleveland, Ohio gets my vote for the unabashedly happy show of my own personal and hard-won 2013 concert tour.
At the end, Lindsey told the audience that we were angels (more than “you’re a great audience,” in my enthusiastic opinion), so I can’t hesitate to say that divine fun was had by everyone present that night. I have no doubt that this spirit will continue for the rest of the tour in all kinds of happy, sad, intense, funny, and memorable musical ways.
The always animated Mick Fleetwood may be one of the most entertaining drummers in music. He and his Rock and Roll Hall of Fame band, Fleetwood Mac, delivered an almost three-hour marathon at The Q Saturday night.
Fleetwood Mac gave a concert Saturday night at The Q with Mick Fleetwood on drums, Lindsey Buckingham on guitar and vocals, John McVie on bass and Stevie Nicks on vocals, and they were aided by a backing band that provided an extra guitar and keyboards as well as a couple of harmony singers who sang on a lot of the 23 songs the Rock and Roll Hall of Famers did in a two-hours and 40 minute set that included hits from the beginning to the current days of a career, at least with Buckingham and Nicks in the fold, back in the early 1970s, but really couldn’t quite recapture the magic of those days, despite some really impressive guitar work and a stellar drum solo by Fleetwood, mainly because Nicks has lost a little of the somewhat limited range she had to begin with.
My computer tells me that paragraph has 145 words, and my instincts tell me you probably quit reading about 30 words into it. Which goes to prove the point that there’s a lot to be said for editing. Sentences AND concerts can be too long.
The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame has scores of inductees, and few are more worthy of the honor than Fleetwood Mac. The band’s catalog – from Rumours’ to the newest release, a four-song EP called, fittingly, Extended Play’ – is a testament to the talents of Fleetwood, McVie (both John and his ex-wife and former bandmate, Christine), Buckingham and Nicks.
“Second Hand News,’’ “Rhiannon,’’ “Tusk,’’ “Never Going Back Again,’’ “Go Your Own Way,’’ “Don’t Stop’’ and the rest were, for a lot of us, the first “grown-up’’ songs we fell in love with. They were and are the tunes you can hear over and over and find new meaning and nuances in each listen.
Stevie Nicks’ Fleetwood Mac ‘uniform’ as sweet as the sounds from the band that hits The Q on Saturday
Fleetwood Mac When: 8 p.m. Saturday. Where: The Q, East Sixth Street and Huron Road, Cleveland. Tickets: $49.50-$149.50, plus fees, available at the box office, at Ticketmaster outlets, online at ticketmaster.com and by phone at 1-888-894-9424.
It’s one of the most iconic album covers of its era. Mick Fleetwood, all 6-foot-5 of him, stands in regal ponytailed profile over the dancing figure of Stevie Nicks, a full 16 inches shorter.
The Rumours album, recorded in 1976, released in 1977 and reissued this year — that anniversary is the basis for the tour that brings the band to The Q on Saturday — has a Victorian ballet feel to the cover, partly inspired by Fleetwood’s poufy shirt, breeches and knee-high socks and partly by Nicks’ deep-black toe shoes.
The singer’s flowing black dress, with its diaphanous cape and below-the-knee skirt, wafts in the wind of a photographer’s fan, and seems as if it could take flight all by itself. It’s a look cultivated by the sultry singer, one that matches the ethereal tonality of her sometimes husky but always sexual voice.
The toe shoes, though, are a bit of an anachronism, said Meredith Rutledge-Borger, assistant curator at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum. That’s because Nicks always — well, clearly almost always — wore boots with 3- or 4-inch heels, just to give her more height onstage.
That dress hangs in the L.A. exhibit in the Rock Hall, and it’s one of seven pieces of stage-worn clothing donated by the superstar who, along with her band, was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1998.
Most were donated by Nicks herself, who had a huge hand in creating her look along with designer Margi Kent.
Nicks described that look in a 2001 interview with a Massachusetts radio station:
“I developed [my clothing style] before the ‘Rumours’ album with my designer, Margi Kent, that I met in the first year of Fleetwood Mac,” Nicks told the station.
“I told her, ‘I need to have a uniform. We have to think of something that looks good. [Kent told her] ‘We can make three skirts, three tops, and have your shoes and your little, you know … a couple of wraps and jackets and you’re ready to go.’ And that’s what I did.
“And the outfit that’s on the ‘Rumours’ cover is exactly the same outfit that’s on the ‘Shangri-La’ cover. It’s the same outfit that’s on the ‘Bella Donna’ cover,” Nicks said. “It’s a timeless outfit, and it has made my life much easier because I don’t ever have to think about it.”
It definitely is a look unique to Nicks herself. Rutledge laughed and recalled a scene in the movie “Sid and Nancy.” In the 1986 flick, Chloe Webb starred as Nancy Spungen, girlfriend of former Sex Pistols bassist Sid Vicious, played by Gary Oldman. In this particular scene, Webb is forced to borrow some of Vicious’ mother’s clothes, and catches a glimpse of herself.
“Look at me! I look like [expletive] Stevie Nicks in hippie clothes!” she exclaimed.
Maybe so, but there’s no denying the beauty in the outfits, nor is there any denying that they really reflect the soaring musical turn taken by Fleetwood Mac after Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham joined the group on New Year’s Eve 1974.
“She is a very romantic and mystical person,” said Kent in a telephone interview from her Los Angeles studio, “so she wanted something that had kind of a historical feel, something that would be like a fairy tale a little bit, but also something in the dark colors so it would be rock ¤’n’ roll.”
The look was developed in concert — if you’ll pardon the expression — with Nicks, Kent said.
“I design for the whole,” said Kent, asked whether she put together Nicks’ look from the boots up, or the hair down. “She’s very tiny, she’s only 5-foot-1. She needed to have that sweet, delicate part of her as well as being the roaring hard-ass rock ‘n’ roller.
“When she wears chiffon, it hangs lean and soft and sensual, and the wind moves it,” Kent said. “But when she opens up the ‘Rhiannon’ sleeves and plays with the skirt and has a lot of movement, she becomes large and big and very strong.”
Kent, who also designs for Neil Diamond, said she is inspired by the music of the artists with whom she works.
“What I try to do is pull out from [the clothing] what I feel from the music they’re projecting,” she said. “If they’re touching me in a certain way, that’s how I try to project their visual for the audience.”
And it works. The look almost perfectly mirrors the sound that flows from Nicks’ lips.
Call it, if you will, a perfect fit.
Chuck Yarborough / The Plain Dealer / Thursday, June 13, 2013
Classic rockers Fleetwood Mac (June 15) have put their differences aside and are on a long arena tour that includes a stop at the Q. Expect to hear all the hits, plus a couple of new songs the band has just recorded for an EP.
Tickets: $49.50, $79.50 and $149.50 including a $3.00 facility fee.