[The Nicks Fix]

The LA Times
July 14, 2003

Fleetwood Mac puts its foot down


Buckingham's fiery guitar, Nicks' vocals stir the legendary band's creative juices again.

By Steve Appleford , Special to The Times

Lindsey Buckingham did not return to Fleetwood Mac easily. The singer-guitarist walked away from the multi-platinum-selling act in 1987, not to seek greater fame and riches, but because the band's swirl of angst, excess and the commercial imperative meant his wilder creative impulses no longer felt at home there.

That began to change in 1997 with an MTV special, a live album and a subsequent world tour, surprising even Buckingham that it happened at all. But it's taken until now for the reunited Fleetwood Mac to produce an album of new material and another tour, which delivered the band on Friday to Staples Center for the first of two shows.

Other classic rock acts of a certain era struggle merely to re-create a satisfying echo from the past, gathering whatever original members are alive and available (Lynyrd Skynyrd, Journey, etc.). Fleetwood Mac at least aims higher, the main surprise Friday being the startling intensity that Buckingham still brings to the band's music.

Even a cynic would have to feel something for a classic rocker who still cares enough to deliver a wild, foot-stomping force to the otherwise easy-listening '80s hit "Big Love," which was transformed into a big, bluesy seizure of acoustic guitar.

At least some of that enthusiasm was shared by the rest of Fleetwood Mac: singer Stevie Nicks, drummer Mick Fleetwood and bassist John McVie, none of whom seemed to be going through the motions. Nicks joined Buckingham for a duet on "Landslide" that was spare and rousing, as the crowd sang along ("And I'm getting older, too") without coaching.

As with anything from the band's late-'70s period (which included the 20-million-selling album "Rumours"), the song got fans to their feet. And they cheered just as wildly at Nicks' every slow-motion spin during "Rhiannon," her brooding signature ballad. Nicks also performed "Silver Springs," long a forgotten '70s B-side resurrected as a new hit in 1997, retaining the energy and ease of melody from the band's most creative, popular period.

The old tunes largely retained their original charm, not from nostalgia but simply because their best songs still work, exploring the darker edges of human relationships within a subversive folk-rock sound. Such modern punk-based artists as Billy Corgan and Courtney Love have called those songs deeply influential on their work.

On Friday, Buckingham seemed to draw the most fire from songs on the new album, "Say You Will." He's never been the band's most distinctive vocalist (not with Nicks and the now-retired Christine McVie around), but he's a feisty, underappreciated guitarist.

He erupted again on the epic "Come." The song did not account for the night's most tuneful moments, until Buckingham slipped into a frantic, apocalyptic guitar solo that at least revealed where his creative energies still lie: in the present.

The new album's title song was amiable if unsurprising and overly polished. But the rich, purring harmonies of "Peacekeeper" were introduced by a short, cryptic statement by Buckingham, which concluded, "When love is gone, there is always justice. And when justice is gone, there is force." The core Fleetwood Mac quartet was joined by two additional guitarists, a keyboardist, a percussionist and two background singers. Christine McVie was missed, though her absence was not a major detriment, since the band has enough material to easily fill a night of hits without her. And Buckingham finally sounds ready to lead the band toward creating new reasons for fans and himself to keep coming back for more.

Fleetwood Mac

Where: Arrowhead Pond, 2695 E. Katella Ave., Anaheim.

When: Wednesday-Thursday, 8 p.m.

Price: $49.50-$135.

Contact: (714) 704-2500.

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