Why Fleetwood Mac Is Bigger Than Ever

Fleetwood Mac in 2009
Fleetwood Mac in 2009
Photo by Jay Lee

Fleetwood Mac will be playing a very special show in Houston on Monday night. It's special because it is the first time Christine McVie will be joining the band in a performance here since the early '90s at least. For many younger fans, this is their first opportunity to see the band's full classic lineup performing together.

And those younger fans? Well, there's a lot of them -- in fact, there may be more than ever. Against all odds, Fleetwood Mac has gone from a classic-rock band, relegated to bargain bins, to a thriving, relevant enterprise. Monday night's show will be a celebration of that fact.

Of course, this has nothing to do with new music on the part of the band, or even anything particularly special they've done. Sure, it probably ignited a little bit of renewed interest when Stevie Nicks and all those witch rumors became a focal point of the last season of American Horror Story. But even then, Fleetwood Mac's revival was rolling around beforehand.

It wasn't releasing new music for the first time in a decade either. 2013's Extended Play was Fleetwood Mac's first newly released material since 2003's Say You Will, a tepidly received album that missed the mark of their resurgence by years. While Extended Play was a welcome addition to their discography with some pretty solid songs on it, most younger fans probably never even noticed it came out.

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No, the reason for their revival is indie rock and folk, which are massive these days. You can hardly go anywhere without hearing someone playing an acoustic guitar, once the sort of thing which was only ubiquitous in flashbacks to the long-forgotten era of hippies at parties noodling around on Beatles chords in clouds of weed smoke.

Bands like the Decemberists and City and Colour have brought Americana and folk into their indie-rock with astounding results. It's practically a new genre, nothing like the indie rock of yesteryear, represented by bands like Pavement or Archers of Loaf. Much of it is indebted to one band, too: Fleetwood Mac.

The dual harmonies of Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks. The bluesy, roots guitar from Buckingham, combined with the band's technical proficiency and tendency towards hard-rock breakdowns in their Americana jams. It's all there plain to see on Rumours, the modern blueprint for how to make a record like this.

The esteem of Rumours has always been great. It is one of the most lauded and greatest-selling records of all time. But where this sound had once fallen into disfavor, relegated to your parents' mixtapes while the kids were out breaking bottles and losing their shit to punk rock and metal, it has recently become cool again for the first time in 30 years.

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A song like "The Chain" is so profoundly influential on a band like the Decemberists that one could almost accuse them of ripping it off. Even songs on their other records like "Landslide" have gone from your mom's favorite song to a legendary ballad held in esteem by singer-songwriter indie rockers around the world.

Dare I say it, my generation has all but abandoned the distorted guitars and revolutionary attitudes of metal to embrace plaid shirts and beautiful chord melodies. In essence, this is the Fleetwood Mac generation. Almost every twentysomething I know now adores the band and their inestimable influence on modern rock music.

When Fleetwood Mac plays in Houston on Monday, it will be the first show in our city as a full lineup in at least 20 years. But it will also be the first show they've played in Houston where their audience will be so vastly mixed. This isn't going to be a classic rock show where the average age of the audience member is middle-aged. It will be a legacy show, where everyone from teenagers to people in their thirties will congregate to pay their respects to the fore bearers of a genre.

The Mac is back, and bigger than ever.

Fleetwood Mac performs Monday, December 15 at Toyota Center, 1510 Polk. Doors open at 7 p.m.

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