Fleetwood Mac Toyota Center June 5, 2013
A few things occurred to me as a spectator at Wednesday Night's Fleetwood Mac show at Toyota Center:
- They are not in the touring game for a paycheck;
- This band has a ton of mutual respect for one another, and for good reason; and
- All of us could really take some good inspiration from this group, whether we are musicians or not.
In short, if you are a fan of Fleetwood Mac, see this band while you can. It will be worth every penny.
Watching Fleetwood Mac play, the first thing that is abundantly clear is that they really believe in their work and stand behind what they have produced, and with good reason. Their songs are timeless in a way that a new listener would have no idea if they were written in 1974 or next year, in 2014. The lyrics are so transcendent that any human who has ever been in any kind of interpersonal relationship (dare I say, all of us) can relate on some level. I especially loved watching kids who had come with their parents bang out every lyric to every song, even moreso than their elder chaperones.
The band opened their set with "Second Hand News," and joy filled the arena. They played a grouping of other classics ("The Chain," "Dreams," "Rhiannon") before hitting several songs from their esoteric album Tusk¸ when Lindsey Buckingham -- who shall now forever be known in my mind as one of the most underrated rock guitarists of the 21st century, but more on that later -- talked about how Tusk's artistry has only been further appreciated through the years.
These bandmates don't need to tour. They don't need the money or the fame. They want to tour and share their music, because they believe in it, and they admire one another.
This brings us to the band itself.
The entire show is chock-full of mutual admiration from all angles, and anyone in the crowd that knew anything about Fleetwood Mac's intense and sordid past could tell that this was genuine love. And as a spectator, it was clear to see why each member holds the others in such high regard.
John McVie, a founding member, is a talented bass player whom Mick Fleetwood (the other co-founder) refers to as "Our secret weapon, the backbone of the group." Mick himself is a ridiculous drummer; at 65 years old, his playing is the band's hard-hitting heartbeat. He is hilarious and giggly and quintessentially British, like a wild dog in the best way possible. His drum solo during "World Turning" felt like it could have literally turned the planet.
For those who are only acquainted with Lindsey Buckingham through Bill Hader's curiously inaccurate (although extremely hilarious) SNL impersonation, Buckingham is impossibly impassioned, spirited, and invested. Fleetwood refers to Buckingham as the "mentor" of the group, and the audience can see how he is the arteries that allow the blood and life to flow into the collection.
He also gets down and dirty in his singing, and his guitar work is insane. On "The Chain," "Big Love," and his on-and-on (in the good way) solo during "I'm So Afraid," it was easy to see his seamless transitions between rock and classical picking. Watching him perform live was eye-opening.
And then there is the incomparable Stevie Nicks, your gypsy. She just is who she is. Who else can pull off top hats and multiple cape/shawl changes? And she makes you want to be her, but you can't because there can only be one Stevie. Fleetwood called her "our lady, our poet." And she just sounded SO Stevie, even still, after all these years.
"Rhiannon" was a great example. Her range wasn't quite what it used to be, but for some reason, it was totally okay. She saved high notes for when they were really needed, and she didn't go for the very high octaves as in days gone by. But her voice was just so textured and uniquely beautiful, that as a fan, the current melodic approaches made even more sense (and were even more appreciated) because of the layer of history that sat so perfectly below her smoky alto.
My favorite part of the show was when Nicks sang unaccompanied the three simple words "snow covered hills" at the end of "Landslide." Those three words were perfect and unblemished; because only Stevie could do them like Stevie.
Stevie and Lindsey together are still magical. They obviously love one another so much, but it's a different sort of love than in the 70s. It's happily evolved into a love full of respect and admiration. It's a grown-up love. When they sang then ending of "Rhiannon" together, it was so clear: "Dreams unwind, love's a state of mind." It is. This is still love, but it's a different state of mind.
My one complaint is that Lindsey's mike was at times too loud compared to Stevie's, and their otherwise beautiful palette of harmonies got muddied due to the sound. Other than that occasional blip, this was rock and roll heaven.
I should also make mention that the backup singers blended beautifully with the band, to the point that I had to ask myself "Christine McWho?" Christine McVie, who is no longer touring with the band, was not noticeable absent in any way. The band's catalog is such that they could omit all of McVie's leading songs without feeling like any era was missing. The one exception was "Don't Stop," the only McVie song originally performed, which Lindsey and Stevie sang Wednesday. It felt like wearing someone else's shoes: sure they're nice, but they don't quite fit. Leaving out the rest of the McVie songs was a smart choice by the band.
The audience, or any audience, could learn a lot from Fleetwood Mac. As a musician, one could only hope to "grow up" to be like them. They are still so incredibly talented, vibrant, and passionate. Take Mick Fleetwood for example: he still looks exactly like he did on the cover of 1977's Rumours, tights and all.
More so, the band is shockingly humble. Through all my years going to rock shows big and small, I have never attended a concert where the band was so appreciative of its fans and the other members of the group. The band actually closed the show (after their second encore, ending with the glorious "Silver Springs" and the underrated and lovely "Say Goodbye"), by thanking fans for their dedication, treating every song like it is the first time they heard it, and encouraging everyone to treat each other kindly.
Even more importantly, we can learn to persevere through obstacles in life through these lyrics. As "Landslide" asks, can we handle the seasons of our lives? I don't know, but I do know that bands like this make it a little easier for us to believe we can, because they have proved it possible, regardless of any circumstances.
Personal Bias: I am so obsessed with the back stories of this band. I know I'm not the only one. Go ahead and get yourself into a major Wikipedia rabbit hole in case you are just getting into them. It will make their music even more fascinating, and their longevity unbelievable.
The Crowd: Pretty much everyone here was drinking age. Hence, the beer lines were VERY LONG.
Overheard In the Crowd: "When you're on a Stevie high, it's hard to realize how good everyone else is. I had to come down first to realize it."
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Random Notebook Dump: Would it be inappropriate for me to carry around a ribboned tambourine? Because I really want to. I feel like maybe I could pull if off at Last Concert Café?