[The Nicks Fix]

Chicago Sun Times
June 28, 2003

Revived Fleetwood Mac bares its blues-rock roots

BY JEFF WISSER Staff Reporter Advertisement

The truth about Fleetwood Mac surfaced again Thursday night at the Allstate Arena.

The dirty little secret of the mid-'70s edition of Fleetwood Mac was that, even with the defections of Peter Green, Danny Kirwan and Bob Welch and the additions of Christine McVie, Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham, the band had not strayed as far from its blues-rock roots as it sometimes may have appeared. Even after the multiplatinum success of their "Rumours" album, beneath the radio-friendly, hit-manufacturing exterior beat the heart of a hard-driving blues-rock band.

Freed from the constraints of the studio, where producer Buckingham would frequently fade out on the guitar solos of guitarist Buckingham, the Mac was an outfit that had not lost the will to rock hard.

Thursday night, an inspired Buckingham & Co. demonstrated that, even with a breakup, a reunion and the departure of Christine McVie, they can still generate some heat onstage.

To be sure, times have changed and the band has aged. The principal quartet was joined Thursday by a cadre of sidemen including two backing vocalists, two percussionists, two guitarists and one keyboard player. (Could Christine McVie's contributions have been underestimated?) Buckingham's hairline has receded. Nicks' vocal range has retreated, sometimes to a throaty croak that recalls Marlene Dietrich.

But after opening the show with relatively subdued readings of "The Chain" and "Dreams," Buckingham announced his arrival with some savage, spellbinding guitar bashing on "Eyes of the World." An impassioned "Peacekeeper" found Buckingham continuing to hammer away, and was followed by one of the evening's more stellar moments, a stirring performance of "Second Hand News." Driven by drummer and band founder Mick Fleetwood's muscular shuffle, the fiery kiss-off number found Nicks and Buckingham facing off from opposite ends of the stage, spitting out the lyrics to this musical diatribe borne of the couple's very public mid-'70s breakup. It was a moment that could have been submerged in schmaltz; it was, ultimately, redeemed by some fiery playing.

While Fleetwood and his founding partner, bassist John McVie, remain the anchors of what is now essentially a quartet, they continue, for the most part, to shun the spotlight (one exception being the gaunt, bearded, balding and utterly Tolkienesque Fleetwood's veering-toward-silly drum solo near show's end). Their entrance onto the stage was with the sidemen, sans spotlight, rather like journeymen laborers. Their playing, however, was anything but that. Fleetwood's manic stick-handling and McVie's effortless fretwork helped turn even slight material such as onetime B-side "Silver Spring" into something large, muscular, portentous.

Combined with the frenzied playing of Buckingham, whose style matches that of Neil Young for energy and invention, they put some muscle into the music and kept the night from turning into rote readings of old hits and just so many swirling, twirling spins by Nicks.

They were the secret weapon at the Allstate Arena.

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