[The Nicks Fix]

San Francisco Chronicle
July 25, 2003

The following is a revie of the July 23 Fleetwood Mac concert in Oakland Arena.

Fleetwood Mac rocks harder than ever as old songs mix well with new

Neva Chonin, Chronicle Pop Music Critic

"Here is where the dream began for us," Stevie Nicks told a packed house at the Arena in Oakland on Wednesday. "I just wanted you to know."

The faithful responded rapturously as Fleetwood Mac's soft-rock diva and singer-guitarist Lindsey Buckingham (a graduate of Menlo-Atherton High) glided into one of the group's signature hits, "Landslide." Nicks' shout-out to her old stomping grounds might read like performance corn, but it rang true to the legions of local fans who have followed the band for three decades. When Nicks crooned the elegiac line, "I'm getting older, too," the deafening cheers ricocheted off the venue's concrete walls.

Fleetwood Mac, the band that defined mainstream '70s rock with its "Rumours" album, has grown older. But "Say You Will," its recent CD featuring new material and the old lineup (minus one founding member, keyboardist-singer Christine McVie), shows that it hasn't lost its iconic appeal for fans who used "Rumours" as a coming-of-age soundtrack.

More intriguingly, the Mac mystique has been resurrected by later generations looking to temper their 21st century edge with classic melodies. Zwan's Billy Corgan has sung the band's praises; Courtney Love cited Nicks as an influence and covered "Gold Dust Woman"; the Dixie Chicks have made "Landslide" a hit all over again.

The Oakland audience held the expected number of vintage shag haircuts and gray heads, but also a decent infusion of newer acolytes. All greeted Fleetwood Mac -- Nicks, Buckingham, drummer Mick Fleetwood and bassist John McVie -- with equal enthusiasm as the group opened its 140-minute concert with a classic cut, "The Chain."

Wearing a filmy black dress with an incongruous pair of black athletic shoes, Nicks was more a rock diva than the spinning gypsy chick of old. She donned the requisite glittering shawl for "Gold Dust Woman" and whirled with languid grace on "Gypsy" and the beloved ballad "Rhiannon" but spent most of the set close to her scarf-bedecked microphone. Nicks' singing echoed her restrained physical presence. Retaining its husky, nasal stamp, her voice has added depth that compensates for its more limited range, lending a smoky resonance to both new material ("Say Goodbye") and old ("Dreams" and Nicks' solo tour de force, "Stand Back").

If Nicks was reserved, her stage partner (and former life partner) Buckingham was a kinetic spectacle. Guitar solos on "Big Love," "Come" and "Go Your Own Way" were so furious they left metal strings hanging as he convulsed, whipped across the stage and hammered the guitar frets as though playing bongos. It was gaudy virtuosity at its best, turning dreary instrumental-solo embellishments into spasmodic free play.

Material from "Say You Will" was woven through the pantheon of older tunes with surprising ease. Polished new songs such as "Peacekeeper" (with Buckingham on vocals) acquired a refreshing rawness in performance; classics like "Second Hand News" and "Tusk" rocked harder than in their mellow heyday.

Throughout, with two additional singers and four touring musicians as backup, McVie and Fleetwood's rhythm section worked with symbiotic precision. Fleetwood, in particular, had his moment during the encore of "World Turning," when he performed a percussive solo wearing a vest wired to simulate electronic drums.

For many, though, the night's greatest draw was watching the interplay between Buckingham and Nicks, who harmonized like a pair of ex-lovers reminiscing about their shared history through their shared music. The audience was part of that history and reminisced with them.

"It's been a long, strange trip," Buckingham noted shortly into the set. "But the point is, here we are."

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