[The Nicks Fix]

Newark Star Ledger
May 27, 2003
Fleetwood Mac goes its own way

Star-Ledger Staff

At three different points in Fleetwood Mac's Sunday night show at the Continental Airlines Arena, Lindsey Buckingham smacked his guitar.

He took his hands, otherwise devoted to forming chords and plucking strings, and pounded the instrument like a percussionist playing a bongo solo. Each time he did this -- on the songs "Come," "I'm So Afraid" and "Go Your Own Way" -- he created a wild burst of noise, which was precisely his intent.

Buckingham is this band's designated rock'n'roll animal. He was determined to put on a show and be the driving force of the latest edition of this long-running rock circus.

Fleetwood Mac came into being in 1967 as a blues-rock band anchored by drummer Mick Fleetwood and bassist John McVie. It went through nine different lineups before solidifying as a quintet in 1974 featuring Buckingham, singer-songwriter Stevie Nicks and singer-songwriter-keyboardist Christine McVie. The albums "Fleetwood Mac," in 1975, and "Rumours," in 1977, yielded seven Top 20 singles, including "Dreams," "Don't Stop," "You Make Loving Fun," "Say You Love Me" and "Rhiannon."

The hits came less frequently in the '80s, and band members went their own way for most of the '90s. But a 1997 reunion tour proved the old magic was still there. Then Christine McVie decided she had had enough, and quit.

Buckingham, Nicks, Fleetwood and John McVie recorded an occasionally inspired but sometimes tired-sounding new album, "Say You Will," with only minor contributions from Christine McVie. They released it in April and are currently touring without her; seven other musicians fill out the arrangements.

Fleetwood Mac concerts used to showcase the band's three distinctive frontmen (Buckingham, Nicks and Christine McVie) more or less equally. Sunday's show, though, was more like a dialogue between the manic Buckingham and the comparatively mellow Nicks.

A lot of the dramatic tension in the group has always been generated by this pair, anyway. They're ex-lovers and have frequently written about their relationship. Sunday, they looked directly at each other when they sang about infidelity and bittersweet romantic memories.

Fleetwood and John McVie, as usual, anchored the songs with their steady, subtly buoyant rhythms. Fleetwood -- often captured by video cameras with a crazy glint in his eyes, or a look of beat-mad bliss -- also took a few drum solos. But this was definitely the Stevie & Lindsey Show.

Nicks brought her usual sultry flair to songs like "Dreams," "Gyspy" and "Gold Dust Woman," and closed the show with a sweet version of the "Say You Will" ballad, "Goodbye Baby." But she showed a more steely, determined side when numbers like "Silver Springs" and "Stand Back" called for it.

During "Landslide," her meditation on aging and other life changes, she flashed five fingers, twice, as audience members cheered. She turned 55 yesterday.

Buckingham played feverishly fast guitar riffs on songs like "Second Hand News," "Eyes of the World" and "Big Love." But he also lightened up at times, making "Never Going Back Again" into a heart-to-heart conversation with the audience, and embracing the easy-going pop of the "Say You Will" track, "What's the World Coming To."

The band stayed away from Christine McVie-written material, with one exception: "Don't Stop" was one of the encores, with Nicks taking over her vocal parts. There was no "You Make Loving Fun," "Over My Head," "Say You Love Me" or "Songbird" in this show.

Christine McVie's absence opened up more space for obscure Nicks- and Buckingham-written songs. Nicks introduced "Beautiful Child," from the 1979 "Tusk" album, by saying she thought she would never perform it onstage; it was so bland, though, that it didn't add much to the show. Buckingham turned "I'm So Afraid" (from the 1975 "Fleetwood Mac" album) into a howling blues-rock epic.

Briefly, in other words, the band returned to its blues roots. But moments later, it dragged out the puzzling, percussion-heavy "Tusk" title track -- a song that represents the band's self-indulgent low point. Fleetwood Mac has been through a lot in the last 36 years, and this show reflected it all.

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