[The Nicks Fix]

Las Vegas Sun
July 7, 2003

Mac trudges on after latest lineup change

By Spencer Patterson

When: Saturday.
Where: MGM Grand Garden Arena.
Rating (out of 5 stars): Three and 1/2

More than perhaps any other band, Fleetwood Mac has turned changing its lineup into an art form.

Fourteen musicians have been members of the group. Even the departure of its founder, guitar god Peter Green, proved to be just a pothole in the Mac's winding road to rock immortality.

So it probably came as no great shock to fans when Fleetwood Mac announced its intention to tour this year without the retired Christine McVie, a mainstay in the band since 1971.

Far more surprising was the extent to which McVie's absence affected her former bandmates' live performance Saturday night at the MGM Grand Garden Arena.

Not that the concert was a bust without her. Far from it, the four remaining Macsters -- Stevie Nicks, Lindsey Buckingham, John McVie and Mick Fleetwood -- offered up enough well-presented favorites to satisfy the Boomer-dominated crowd of 12,700.

But as the two-hour, 20-minute performance wore on, even the most ardent supporters of the Buckingham-Nicks combination must have yearned for the sheer simplicity of a good Christine McVie number.

Hers might never have ranked among Fleetwood Mac's primo cuts, but a few poppy singalongs might have lightened up the overly heavy mood emanating from the stage much of the night.

Nicks certainly wasn't at fault. After the band opened with its soap opera theme song, "The Chain," the 55-year-old singer took her first lead vocal for "Dreams."

Although she no longer works the upper register -- instead bringing the song's high notes down an octave -- Nicks' voice retains its unmistakeable rasp, which she projected effortlessly throughout the arena.

Robed in flowing black clothing and her microphone adorned with hanging beads and ribbons, Nicks played her role as rock's most mysterious chanteuse. She twirled, gestured cryptically with her hands and blew kisses to her adoring fans.

"Beautiful Stevie!" a man shouted from the arena floor during a particularly quiet moment in Nicks' wistful ballad "Beautiful Child," an unexpected highlight of the show.

"Rhiannon," "Gypsy" and "Gold Dust Woman" all found Nicks in top form, but her lone foray into solo territory, "Stand Back," cried out for its original, fully cheesed-out synth part.

Buckingham's night was far less even. The 54-year-old singer/guitarist provided two of the show's most memorable moments: a powerful solo, acoustic rendering of "Big Love" and a sweetly understated version of "Never Going Back Again."

He was also responsible for the concert's primary shortcomings.

Perhaps feeling that his songwriting has overshadowed his musicianship in the public eye, Buckingham seemed intent on showing off his instrumental skills.

On song after song, he soloed maniacally for minutes on end, pawing savagely at his guitar strings as if he were trying to tear them out. While the bizarre spectacle stirred up some in the mostly seated crowd, the heavy-handed approach only served to extend Buckingham's numbers far past the point of tolerance.

Of course, the shared moments between one-time couple Buckingham and Nicks drew lots of oohs and aahs from the audience, even if everyone realized the same scenes are most likely repeated nightly on the tour.

Buckingham and Nicks also reaffirmed that their version of "Landslide" is still the best one going, infusing the song with far more emotion than either the Smashing Pumpkins' or Dixie Chicks' popular covers.

The two men for whom Fleetwood Mac was originally named -- drummer Mick Fleetwood and bassist John McVie -- were steady as ever, particularly the underrated McVie, who drove the band's music as much as its more famous skins man.

The wild-eyed Fleetwood engaged in a bit of his own self-appreciation during the first encore, a seemingly odd time for an eight-minute drum solo, part of it played by hand-slapping electric drums fitted inside his vest.

Along with the hits, Fleetwood Mac performed six tracks from its new album "Say You Will." Most went over well, further evidence that the material is the Mac's strongest new work in years.

In the liner notes, Christine McVie is credited with contributing to that disc in the studio. As the band's lackluster attempt to recreate "Don't Stop" without her in Saturday night's encore demonstrated, it's too bad she didn't come along for the ride as well.

The Nicks Fix main page