April 10, 2013

Fleetwood Mac: Living Up To The Legend

All too often, the legend of a band is better than the reality.  Luckily, for the nine-year old in me who first fell in love with Stevie Nicks from the gatefold of the Rumours album while listening to Dreams on a record player in my cousin’s basement all those years ago, Fleetwood Mac is a band that lives up to its legend.  Their performance at DC’s Verizon Center was stellar. 

The signature Mac sound remains wholly intact with no regard to the calendar.  The unmistakable rhythm section of Mick Fleetwood and John McVie is still one of rock’s all-time finest, as the two practice what Keith Richards refers to as “the ancient art of weaving.”  Obviously, there’s also Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks – soulmates who still harmonize the most endearing love songs one minute, and deliver the most viciously blistering barbs to each other the next.  The internal drama, soap opera, and emotional baggage also all remain palpably present.  Although with the passage of time, the band seems to approach their music and its inherent baggage with a sense of perspective, maturity, acceptance, and a whole lot of humor.  

A triple shot from Rumours – Second Hand News, The Chain, and Dreams – set the pace for the next two hours and forty minutes, as they performed hit after hit flawlessly from arguably the greatest catalog of the ’70s So-Cal Sound (…although The Eagles might take exception to that title).  Aside from all the ubiquitous hits, the band also debuted a new song, Sad Angel, that sounded as familiar and comfortable as any of their classics.  Buckingham’s solo turn with Big Love highlighted the fact that he might be the most underrated guitarist in rock.  Nicks took a non-Fleetwood Mac spotlight with her ‘80s solo hit Stand Back.  The evening’s best surprise was a pair of songs from the pre-Fleetwood Mac Buckingham-Nicks album.  The fact that hardcore fans have to resort to YouTube to hear this out-of-print pop gem of an album is criminal.       

The one obvious quibble with Fleetwood Mac’s show is that they overlooked all the Christine McVie hits.  While it would’ve been a fitting tribute to the retired McVie if they covered her songs, perhaps the omission also is recognition that she can’t be replaced.

It should be noted that the evening’s MVP Award goes to Fleetwood Mac’s sound engineers.  While arenas like the Verizon Center are designed primarily for sporting events – not for acoustics – on this evening, the band sounded like they were performing in a controlled studio.  To my recollection, no band has ever sounded so good in what’s essentially a hockey arena.  The sound engineers achieved perfect separation and balance between instruments and vocals on the loud songs, and on the quiet songs, you could hear a pin drop onstage.

Legend aside, perhaps Fleetwood Mac’s greatest achievement of the evening was living up to the wide-eyed expectations of my inner nine-year old. 
Set List

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