[The Nicks Fix]

The Lubbock Avalanche-Journal
August 8, 2003

Fleetwood Mac puts on strong concert



Those who have listened to this year's Fleetwood Mac recording "Say You Will" are aware that the popular rock 'n' roll band, even with stellar vocalist Christine McVie absent on the current tour, is not ready to just phone in its performances and depend on reputation alone.

But there must have been some Thursday night at the United Spirit Arena who entered juggling hope with uncertainty. After all, six years have passed since the band's last reunion tour, and Fleetwood Mac may have enjoyed a zenith of popularity more than 20 years ago.

No matter.

Opening with "The Chain" and closing the main part of the show with "Go Your Own Way" two hours later, Fleetwood Mac dared anyone to question its validity, delivering an exceptional concert that ranged from whispered lyrics to guitar licks born of '60s psychedelia.

Fans still screamed vocalist Stevie Nicks' name as the show began, as expected. But today's Fleetwood Mac exhibits a much-needed sassy edge not just because of the inclusion of new songs, but because of an incredible and, at times unpredictable, performance by lead guitarist Lindsey Buckingham. If the concert provided fireworks, Buckingham time and again lit the fuse with his work on both electric and acoustic guitar.

The screens above the stage allowed the large turnout of fans to enjoy his technique, watching his long, calloused fingers bending guitar strings, at least until a musical climax is reached and he's willing to spank his guitar to extract final cries.

He simply grew more and more strong, powerful and playful as the concert wore on. He earned cheers at one point while alone on stage, playing the lengthy "Looking Out for Love" on an amplified acoustic guitar, and later — with the crowd already teased by Mick Fleetwood's opening drumbeats — ran after or stalked everyone beside him, with a marching band featured on the screens, while performing an electrified "Tusk."

It was a magic rock 'n' roll moment, and the house erupted with appreciative applause.

Not that Nicks left her own magic spells back in another decade. Wearing her trademark shawls, even rewarding the crowd with her famous spin to the microphone during "Stand Back," her controlled vocals also stood out throughout.

Oh sure, the tempo may be slightly slower and the high notes may be slightly fewer in number. There may be a Cue-Mac program on a computer screen next to the monitors with stage directions and lyrics in case she ever has need of either. (And she did not appear to Thursday.) But there's no way she could fake the passion she brought to so many songs.

And it was nice — there's a word absent at most rock shows — to see Nicks and Buckingham interact on stage with a touch here, or hands on the other's shoulders there.

The two — indeed, the entire band—- shares a personal history, and there were times when songs spoke of friendship and forgiveness, nostalgia and memories.

Whether resurrecting "Beau ti ful Child" from 1975 shadows, or capturing the truth behind "Landslide," Nicks knows how to make audiences care. And she even shares a smile when she sings "I'm getting older, too," during "Landslide."

The group's rhythm section — drummer Fleetwood and bassist John McVie — remains rock solid, although I must say I also was taken by the bespectacled drummer hidden behind Fleetwood's kit who literally pounded the drums in synchronized fashion during the more brutal percussive moments.

He was a nifty addition.

Also contributing at the sides were two acoustic guitarists, one keyboardist, a third percussionist and two harmony singers.

Fans no doubt wanted to hear the hits — cheers greeted "Rhiannon," for example — but just as impressive were "Peacekeeper" and the other tunes from the newest Fleet wood Mac recording. No doubt sales will increase after each concert.

Absent light shows, flash pots and explosions, Fleet wood Mac depended solely on musical skill to survive Thurs day, never more apparent than when Buckingham and McVie played an instrumental duet on electric and bass guitars. True, Bucking ham's higher energy guitar playing might be remembered longer, but the subtle moments, the more intricate offerings, made the show that much more special.

Very early in the concert, Buckingham told the audience, "It's been a difficult and strange trip. But the point is: Here we are!" Older? of course. But still strong. Still valid. Still putting on unbelievably good concerts.

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