[The Nicks Fix]

The Grand Rapids Press
June 15, 2003
Review of the Fleetwood Mac concert on June 14 in Grand Rapids, MI at Van Andel Arena.

Fleetwood Mac flashes the old magic in GR on first tour in six years

By John Sinkevics

Give Lindsey Buckingham credit.

The virtuoso guitarist shelved a long-standing solo project to help fashion Fleetwood Mac's latest studio album, "Say You Will," then hit the road again with a group that's weathered more than its share of inner turmoil over the years.

If he has any regrets, he didn't show them Saturday night when the band played to nearly 12,000 people at Grand Rapids' Van Andel Arena.

Buckingham's spirited, brilliant versions of "Big Love," "World Turning," "I'm So Afraid" and "Never Going Back Again" bolstered the group's two-hour-and-11-minute set and jacked up the show's energy level.

For a band never shy about airing dirty laundry in its songs, the refrain, "Been down one time, been down two times, I'm never going back again," didn't seem nearly as important to Buckingham as the line, "Come down and see me again."

Because there Buckingham was, back on stage in the band's first tour in six years, as pumped-up and fiery a performer as ever, clearly relishing the chance to invigorate a weekend-party crowd that came down to see one of the best-selling groups of the 1970s.

Maybe there's an emotional cleansing, a therapeutic release that comes from laying bare your personal demons on stage in front of thousands of people, because Buckingham (and,not surprisingly, the ever-ebullient drummer and band co-founder Mick Fleetwood), provided plenty of sparks in a concert that shrewdly mixed new material with some of Fleetwood Mac's best-known hits.

If there was a downside to this 2003 live version of the Mac -- not counting the pricey $127 tickets -- it was the obvious, no-kidding type of thing, so let's get that out ofthe way now: Christine McMissing.

Keyboard player/singer Christine McVie officially has retired to a castle in England, so Fleetwood Mac's most upbeat songs (the ones she wrote) mostly were absent, except for the encore-pleasing "Don't Stop." And as talented and impressive as backup singers Sharon Celani and Mindy Stein are, there's no replacing McVie's distinctive vocals.

But Grand Rapids fans also got a bit of a bonus Saturday.

Singer Stevie Nicks, whose feet seemed cemented to the stage when the band opened its tour in Columbus, Ohio, a month ago, almost resembled the mystical, whirling-dervish Nicks of old.

She produced intense, emotion-drenched renditions of classics such as "Landslide," "Gold Dust Woman" and "Stand Back," which even inspired her to take several full-fledged twirls in her flowing black dress.

Of course, she accomplished this wearing thick, black hightops with schoolmarm appeal, rather than those'70s high heels -- but hey, when you're a rocker in your mid-50s, you gotta do what you gotta do.

Actually, the entire band seemed more comfortable, lively and happy than it did during the tour opener, with the possible exception of Fleetwood, who always seems thrilled to be on stage.

The underrated drummer with the eyes of a maniac represents the soul of Fleetwood Mac, so when the crowd gave him a rousing, deafening ovation after a seven-minute drum solo on "World Turning" during the first of two encores, it seemed only fitting.

And even with Christine McVie absent, there's no denying the power this band and its music brings to the stage.

Perhaps that's due to the dynamic songwriting that made 1975's "Fleetwood Mac" and 1977's "Rumours" among the most consistent, most listenable rock albums of their decade. Or maybe it comes from the strained dynamics that brought band members together as well as split them apart, delivering a certain explosiveness to the mix.

Nothing, however, seemed strained about Saturday's performance, buoyed by backing musicians Brett Tuggle (keyboards), Neale Heywood (guitar), Taku Hirano (percussion) and Carlos Rios (guitar).

From percussion-heavy versions of their '70s hits "Second Hand News" and "Tusk" to the harmony-driven new tunes "Peacekeeper" and "What's the World Coming To," the Van Andel show came off as a joyous reunion, not a forced marriage.

At the center of it all was Buckingham, whose unconventional, pickless guitar-playing and passionate singing left his shirt drenched with sweat less than a half-hour into the concert.

With Fleetwood providing the thunder, the energetic Buckingham fashioned blistering riffs to closeout "I'm So Afraid" and "Go Your Own Way," the guitarist clawing, scratching, slashing and thrashing away -- even allowing fans in the front row to paw at the strings of his instrument.

Electric moments like these make Fleetwood Mac one of the few mainstream bands I'd consider seeing more than once in 2003, maybe because it could be the last time it will tour, even if Fleetwood flatly dismisses the possibility of retiring.

"I'll keep playing forever," Fleetwood, now 60, proclaimed in his autobiography, "Fleetwood: My Life andAdventures in Fleetwood Mac."

"They'll have to take me out and shoot me to get me to stop."

Put the bullets away, Mick. Saturday night proved there's still plenty of life left in this horse.

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